You have probably seen people who experience homelessness in Portland before. You may have even offered a few of them assistance. But you probably never thought much about what the day-to-day lives of the homeless are, particularly for women.
According to Liz Starke, Development Manager for Rose Haven, women who experience homelessness often go to great lengths to stay hidden, for fear of their safety when they live on the streets at night. For this reason, they are often referred to as the “hidden homeless.”
There is a nonprofit organization in Portland that tries to bring these women into the light.
“Rose Haven is the only drop-in emergency day shelter for women, children and genderqueer folks in Portland who are experiencing homelessness, abuse, and all of those intersecting issues,” Starke said.
Starke said that while night shelters offer a place to sleep, they are limited in their capacity to serve because they have a finite amount of beds. Rose Haven, on the other hand, is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. every day, and offers numerous services.
“We offer showers, first aid, we have social workers on site, we’re a mailing address for over 500 people,” Starke said.
Starke shared a few statistics on Rose Haven: on a given day they serve about 100 guests, and last year they served about 3,600 women and children. These numbers have drastically increased from ten years ago, when they served 748 women and children. The shelter operates out of a church basement on 627 NW 18th Avenue, and in 2017 expanded into the First Immanuel Church fellowship hall due to increasing demand. The center runs with the help of only 10 full-time staff, as well as 642 volunteers, such as Elin Severson.
Severson said she heard about the volunteer opportunity through a business connection.
“I feel sometimes, ‘What can I do? I’m just one person,'” Severson said. That feeling was put to rest after she was given a tour of Rose Haven. “It dawned on me that I can make more of an impact on this homeless crisis.”
According to Severson, $189 can provide all the services Rose Haven offers to one woman for a year. “I wanted to sign up however I could to help fundraise and support this organization,” Severson said.
You can support Rose Haven, too. Their biggest fundraiser of the year is coming on on Sunday, May 12, Mother’s Day. Called the “Reigning Roses Walk,” individuals can register online in teams, and registration is free. Sign up at makeitreign.org.
The event starts at 10 a.m. at Castaway Portland, with live music, facepainting, and snacks to eat. The walk starts at 11 a.m. and circles around 21st and 23rd streets, winding back up at Castaway. According to Starke, this is their 6th annual walk, and their goal this year is $200,000.
Starke wanted to make it clear that even small donations can make a big difference.
“Every little bit counts,” she said. “There’s always some way you can help.”
To find out more information about the fundraiser, click here.