Lonely deaths: Homeless dying on the streets

A homeless advocate is trying to honor men and women who die on the streets so they are not forgotten.

It was early in the morning at the Capitol Hill light rail station. The train was arriving, so a commuter thought he was being considerate when he tried to nudge a man sleeping on the bench.

Except, the man wasn't sleeping. He was dead.

The commuter alerted authorities, snapped a photo, and posted it on Facebook.

This sparked a conversation about the number of people who die outside on the streets of Seattle, many of whom are homeless.

It should be noted we don't know the man's identity, cause of death, or if he even was homeless or not.

"I've seen people in exactly that position way too many times," said Anitra Freeman, 67. 

Freeman has lived on-and-off homeless for much of her adult life.

She's now part of a group called Women in Black, which honors the men and women who die on the streets or through violence in King County.

"Everybody is your fellow citizen," said Freeman. "Everybody is your brother or your sister."

Women in Black has held public vigils for 700 people since it started tracking these deaths in 2000.

Last week, it honored 22 men and women who died from natural causes, violence, or drug overdoses.

So, what should you do if you see someone on the streets who is hunched over and laying down?

"I have the same concern myself when I see somebody sprawled out on the sidewalk. On the one hand, you don't want to disturb someone's privacy. I've tried to sleep on a bench myself. I don't want to be rudely awakened. But the other hand, it could be somebody in serious trouble," said Freeman.

Her advice?

"As kindly and discretely as possible, make sure they're at least breathing," Freeman said.

Copyright 2017 KING


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