We are so proud to announce that our very own Executive Director, Rebekah Albert has been honored by the City of Portland with a Spirit of Portland Award for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion!
Please join us for the award ceremony Tuesday November 14th at Irco
Rose Haven’s Executive Director, Rebekah Albert, is a wonderful leader who exemplifies equity and inclusion – helping those most disadvantaged in our community – women, children and gender nonconforming folks experiencing homelessness. As Portland faces a housing crisis, Rebekah works daily on the front lines of extreme poverty helping women regain confidence, independence and stability.
Rebekah has twenty-five years’ experience in the nonprofit, social services sector. Prior to joining Rose Haven in 2012, she had a 19-year tenure with Loaves & Fishes Centers in Portland. She served as Executive Director of the Humane Society of the Willamette Valley and Communications Director for the YMCA of Greater Seattle. Rebekah came to Rose Haven 5 years ago, and since then she has grown the organization from a small agency operating 3 days a week, to a fully operational nonprofit open 5 days a week serving nearly 3,200 women and children annually.
In Rebekah’s first year at Rose Haven, she embarked on a strategic planning process to determine how best to expand the organization in light of the escalating homeless crisis. Rebekah’s work with the board determined the following priorities and an ambitious action plan.
- Funding and Sustainability: Expand agency resources to achieve financial stability through increased fundraising, board development and community awareness.
- Improved Facility: Increase Rose Havens ability to adequately and safely serve increasing numbers of homeless women and children through an improved, larger facility.
- Organizational Capacity: Increase Rose Haven’s capacity to provide services through increased and improved staffing and volunteer recruitment, training and management.
- Expanded Programs: Expand services available to homeless women and children through increased hours of operation, new programs, and improved community partnerships.
She continues to raise the bar. Recognizing that all we have accomplished just 3.5 years into this plan, Rebekah reconvened the board, staff and key volunteers for a retreat to update and determine new ways to help marginalize women and children in our community.
Under Rebekah’s leadership Rose Haven has:
- Increased hours of operation by 150% (from 3 days a week 9am-12pm to 5 days a week 8:30am-4pm)
- Served 102% more women and children (2011 = 1,580; 2016 = 3,191)
- Increased overall visits by women and children 151% (2011 = 7,500; 2016 = 18,817)
- Increased meals distribution by 152% (2011 = 7,601; 2016 = 19,190)
- Held 112% more advocacy appointments (2011 = 1,818; 2016 = 3,862)
- Increased shopping visits by 84% (2011 = 2,885; 2016 = 5,316)
- Distributed 90% more hygiene kits (2011 =2,700; 2016 = 5,143)
- Increased volunteer support to 599 active volunteers in 2016
- Launched the BLOOM Program, focused on onsite programs related to women’s healing, wellness and empowerment 2015
- Initiated construction project to build onsite showers and shower program for guests
- Brought in onsite programs and trainings for guests, staff and volunteers on LGBTQ, mental health and diversity
Additionally, Rebekah has recognized and embraced the changing demographic within our homeless community. Under her guidance, Rose Haven has acknowledged that a large portion of Portland’s homeless community is non-gender conforming and in desperate need of social services, as they are unable to safely access most co-ed or male facilities. Rose Haven has adjusted its mission to be inclusive and responsive to this need, and now function as a much more diverse and inclusive community thanks to Rebekah.
This is just a small glimpse into the accomplishments Rebekah has made in her time at Rose Haven. On any given day if you come to visit our shelter, you will find Rebekah’s door open and likely a guest in the chair in front of her desk. At the same time you would likely see a child rearranging her office, or a dog or cat relaxing on her floor. She is always a compassionate ear to anyone who is in need, and has served as mother and mentor to each woman or child who walks through our doors. In other cases, Rebekah will fearlessly advocate for women who have been mistreated. You may overhear her scolding a slumlord or calling out another agency for discrimination of a transgender woman.
What makes Rebekah, and ultimately Rose Haven so special, is that she is there with love and respect for everybody. Some of the most challenged or disenfranchised in the community come to Rose Haven. Recent surveys indicate that 72% of our homeless population have mental and/or physical disabilities. Many of these people have been excluded from overnight shelters, often for behavioral issues. At Rose Haven, our community agreement guides behavioral expectations for guests, staff and volunteers. And when they find themselves unable to abide by the community agreement, they end up in Rebekah’s office. She possesses the unique ability to balance compassion with expectations, and simply never gives up on people.
Rebekah reminds us that these women and children come to us in great need, and our priority must be those with the greatest challenges. They have suffered the trauma of hunger, exposure, and in many cases assault. The most devastating aspect of homelessness is the invisibility and isolation our guests face. Leading by example, Rebekah takes as much time as needed for each guest each day, listening to all without judgement; creating the foundation for trust and healing.
Everyone who works in a non-profit wears a lot of hats. What sets Rebekah apart is how how well she wears all of them. She possesses a strong business acumen, drive and creativity that is paired with an ability to compassionately work directly with our guests. She is respected by all, yet accessible. While there is no typical day for Rebekah at Rose Haven, perhaps the best way to describe why she deserves recognition is by sharing a specific example of someone she has helped.
Mary first met Rebekah in 2013. At that time, she was cold, tired, dirty and very angry. Anyone who approached her was met with mistrust. Rebekah brought her food, water and got her a new set of clean clothes. Mary attempted to rest on the couch, and was a bit overwhelmed with the amount of people in our community room. She was frustrated, and on her way out the door in a panic when Rebekah invited her to sit in her office for a bit. Mary stayed, and got a chance to relax and vent about the trials she had been through with Rebekah, and eventually left…. still angry, but a little better than how she came in. The next day Mary returned, and Rebekah greeted her at the door and remembered her name. Mary smiled. This relationship continued, and each day Mary was learning to trust, and smile a little bit more. Over the past 4 years, Mary has returned to Rose Haven almost daily. She now smiles regularly, and has a place to call home with a community and friends she has made here. None of that would have been possible if Rebekah had not seen her, pulled her aside, and let her know she was welcome and valued on that rough first day.