The Facing Project

Joint college effort gives a face to homelessness

When UW-La Crosse sophomore Brianna Reeder thinks of the homeless population, she used to picture the faces she’s seen while driving around her hometown of Minneapolis. But a joint project with UWL, Western Technical College and Viterbo University is shifting that image.

Reeder is working with her peers on the Facing Project. The students are creating monologues and other artistic performances to tell the stories of 13 people in the community who have been or are currently homeless.

“These are real people who just happened to be homeless for a while,” says Reeder. “They’re not the stereotype of lazy, drug-addicted or not trying.”

Ashley Clark, Olivia Dorscheid and Brianna Reeder, left to right, work on their story to share for the Facing Project. Performances are later this month.

The UWL students, broken into small groups, are transcribing interviews of those homeless conducted by Western Technical College students. The UWL students are then writing those stories into vignettes for Viterbo students to adapt and perform.

The performances will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, March 20 and 21, at the Weber Center for the Performing Arts. A reception and opportunity to learn about the project starts an hour before. Tickets are free and can be reserved online.

For the show, Reeder’s group, including UWL juniors Olivia Dorscheid and Ashely Clark, worked on the story of a then college student. The revelation that some of their peers could be homeless while attending school was surprising to them.

“I can’t imagine having to deal with being homeless on top of school and jobs and clubs,” says Clark. “We have enough stress as students, so it’s crazy to think she was dealing with all of it.”

The students, turned advocates, are hoping that by helping share real narratives of real people in the community, the stories will become personal and people will be motivated to take action.

“We’re doing this project to raise awareness,” says Reeder. “Yet some of these people are still homeless. It’s really surprising to me and I hope that changes real soon.”