CWU News

CWU, State of Washington team up in Facing Homelessness



ELLENSBURG, Wash. — There were more than 20,000 homeless people living in Washington, more than half of them in King County, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Point in Time survey.

The count is nearly 600 in Kittitas, Yakima, Chelan, Douglas, and Grant counties. And that winter figure is low, as the central Washington numbers typically rise dramatically during the warm summer weather.

As a way to increase understanding of the problem as well as overcome stereotypes about the homeless, Central Washington University will host “Facing Homelessness” on November 30 and December 1.

The two-day event will include a public presentation by Rex Hohlbein, the executive director of Facing Homelessness, on Wednesday, at 6:30 p.m., in the Student Union and Recreation Center Theatre. 

“We’re not going to end homelessness unless we all, as community, get involved,” said Hohlbein, who leads the Seattle-based organization that raises awareness of those without shelter and other basic needs through the Facing Homelessness website and Facebook page, which has 40,000 followers. The site features photos and personal stories.

“It’s really about us,” he said. “If we don’t take a good look at how we are living out lives, and what we are making important, we’ll never end homelessness.”

During his talk, Hohlbein will outline strategies to tackle homelessness, as simple as offering a smile.

“This is what our nonprofit is doing, we’re telling people that you don’t need a big solution for the big problem,” he added. “All you need to do is begin. And once you begin, with the simplest of things, you will find your own path, your own answers in addressing the issue. That answer, from all of us, will be different. But that’s, actually, the beauty of it. That the issue is so complex and so diverse that it needs the complex and individual answers that we all can bring as human beings.”

The event will also involve a community panel discussion, moderated by Philip Kerrigan, the state’s Combined Fund Drive (CFD) program manager.

While the presentation is free and open to the public, those attending are encouraged to bring a food donation for the local Presidents United to Solve Hunger (PUSH) campaign, designed to provide university presidents and students nationwide with the resources they need to help their universities commit to a food-and-nutrition-secure world. PUSH is also a focus this year of the Associated Students of CWU student government’s equity and community affairs.

CWU’s Facing Homelessness is being held in conjunction with the university’s annual participation in the CFD, which is Washington state’s official workplace giving program for active and retired public employees.

“The mission is to strengthen the culture of giving here by letting staff and faculty know how easy it is to contribute to their favorite charity or the CWU Foundation account through payroll deduction,” noted Drue Larson, the campus CFD committee chair. “We also hope to encourage staff and faculty to contribute charitable dollars and volunteer time to help address social or economic challenges faced by our community.”

Larson added the goal is to have CWU personnel volunteer 2,000 community service hours before the end of the year to address economic and social challenges, or enhance the quality of life locally.

“That includes everything from coaching youth sports to volunteering at community events, and much more,” Larson explained.

To confirm that goal, CWU faculty and staff are asked to log their volunteer activities and hours at

Media contact: Robert Lowery, director of radio services and integrated communications, 509-963-1487,