Kitsap County Human Rights Conference to shift focus

19th annual event will provide information on homelessness.

In 1989, following a cross-burning incident, the Kitsap County Board of Commissioners formed the Kitsap County Council for Human Rights.

The purpose was to make “Kitsap County a caring, supportive and safe community which values each individual, celebrates individual differences and recognizes the importance of each person’s contribution to the community.”

The council’s mission is to “advise county government and Kitsap County residents on issues related to discrimination, violence and harassment based on race or national origin, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, disability or economic status and to promote the equitable treatment of all citizens and reduce prejudice through the development of prevention policies, education, resource, referrals and advocacy.”

This year, the focus of the annual conference is on helping the homeless.

The event will start at 8 a.m. Dec. 4 at the Kitsap Conference Center at Bremerton Harborside. Registration is $60.

“More and more Kitsap County residents and families are finding themselves homeless,” Leif Bentsen, human services planner and coordinator for the Kitsap County Council for Human Rights, said. “This conference provides an excellent opportunity to learn about the growing homeless problem, what local resources are available, where there are gaps in services, and how individuals and organizations can help our neighbors in need.”

The keynote presentation, “Best Intentions Might Not Be Enough: Understanding How to Communicate Across Poverty, Race, Gender and Generations,” will be given by Dr. Donna Beegle, a national expert on poverty and communications

In addition, Dr. Richard Strand, dean for business and technology at Olympic College, will speak about “Being a Leader in Difficult Times.”

Also, local experts will have a panel discussion about “Living On the Street in Kitsap County” and the Continuum of Care Coalition will speak about “Where to Get Help: Understanding Where The Resources Are And How You Can Help.”

An explanation of the homeless count will be given in a presentation entitled, “What is the Annual Homeless Count and Why Do We Do It” and other community organizations will discuss the topic of “How You or Your Organization Can Help.”

Other speakers include Pastor Art Speight, Take It To The Street Ministries; Maj. James Baker, Salvation Army; Darlene Norris-Cooke, Kitsap Community Resources; and Naomi Rees, from the Bremerton Housing Authority.

For more information, or to download a registration form for the event, visit the Council for Human Rights Web site at, or contact Leif Bentsen, human services planner, at (360) 337-4883 or

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