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Seattle Architect Giving Up Designing Million-Dollar Houses To Help The Homeless

Cindy Hohlbein

Rex Hohlbein had been designing luxurious homes for more than two decades when his life began to shift.

He began inviting homeless people into the office of his architecture firm to warm up, use the bathroom and get a cup of coffee. Pretty soon, he found it hard to spend his days designing million-dollar homes when he was meeting so many people he found sleeping in tents or under a doorway.

“This is not anything against people that have money, in any way, shape or form,” Hohlbein said. “It’s just that as you start to understand how people are really struggling on the bottom end of our society, of our community, it’s hard to turn away from that.”

Hohlbein is now giving up his architecture practice to work full-time with people on the street. His life may never have taken this unexpected detour had he not met a man named Chiaka.

Read Hohlbein's story on our companion site, >>>

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.