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Group raising awareness about record number of homeless deaths in King County

There were 310 homeless deaths in King County alone in 2022, making it a record-breaking year. Already, the new year is off to a tragic start.

SEATTLE — There were 310 homeless deaths in King County in 2022. Already, the new year is off to a tragic start.

On Tuesday night in the 1900 block of 22nd Avenue South, gun violence close to an encampment left a 29-year-old man dead. Homicide detectives determined a 54-year-old man, who was injured by gunfire, is a potential suspect, according to Seattle police.

Last week, two men were shot and killed near an encampment in Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood. No arrests have been made in connection with that incident.

According to the City of Seattle, between January and September of 2022, public safety incidents with a connection to homelessness included 101 incidents of shots fired or shootings, 1,225 fires, and 9,063 emergency medical response calls.

On Wednesday, in front of Seattle City Hall, Pat Simpson was determined to catch people’s attention and raise awareness.

"Dumi died outside in Ballard. Would you remember him,” Simpson asked a passersby. "We are remembering him today."

“People deserve to be remembered by name,” she added.

Simpson is part of Women in Black, a group that works to bring attention to homeless deaths.

"We are here to remember Dumi Longwe, who died recently while homeless,” said Anitra Freeman, adding that the 29-year-old died of a drug overdose more than two weeks ago.

City Hall was the chosen venue for an afternoon vigil. Simpson said it is where the group often gathers “every time we learn a person who is homeless has been found outdoors or in a public place or has died by violence.”

Freeman calls last year's record-breaking number of homeless deaths heartbreaking.

"Unless things change drastically, this year is going to be worse,” she said. “The community is being fractured by homelessness, by sweeps, by death.”

Women in Black say resources like social housing and treatment centers are necessary.

“We can’t expect any quick change until we really as a community address the underlying issue which is that people cannot find safe and dignified housing that they can afford,” said Simpson.

According to the city of Seattle, in the first nine months of 2022, 1,300 referrals to shelter were made. 

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