HereTogether Oregon Story: Rose Haven as a Sanctuary in NW Portland
HereTogether Oregon, a local grassroots organization with the mission of helping our houseless neighbors, recently made a visit to Rose Haven to interview our staff and share our services model and values. They detail our history, our campaign to move into our new Home for the Haven, challenges that our houseless community faces, and how Rose Haven compassionately serves our guests. Read the full article from HereTogether at this link!
The line outside Rose Haven (RH) on NW Glisan Street in Portland wraps around the sidewalk. It includes women and gender nonconforming folks of all ages, as well as children and strollers. RH, at the corner of NW Glisan and 18th, is more than a day shelter. It is a sanctuary for those experiencing trauma, poverty, and homelessness; a place where they don’t need to hide who they are. RH serves up to 120 people each day.
RH clients check in at the front desk when they arrive and conduct an intake with a social worker on their first visit. These advocates work with individuals to connect them with resources that provide financial support for getting an ID, medical assistance, utilities, and counseling services. For those who need transportation, bus tickets are available. RH has built a relationship of trust with guests as well as other organizations they partner with. On-site medical care is provided through partnership with nursing schools including at University of Portland, Clackamas Community College, and Concordia St. Paul University. There are also regular visits from a mobile Dental Van and Covid vaccine clinics.
Their model is built on collaboration with partner agencies rather than a duplication of services. Individual needs vary and RH is ready to help on a first come first served basis. Staff and volunteers make guests comfortable and attend to their basic needs first while building trust, and then get to the next steps. Development Director Liz Starke emphasizes the value of uplifting people and connecting them with their humanity.
Services at RH include showers, “shopping” in the boutique, meals, laundry, device charging, using the guest phone, and locked day-time storage of items like suitcases that are difficult to carry all day. Breakfast and lunch are cooked by volunteers under the supervision of staff and served daily. Hygiene supplies are available along with showers. Food is provided by Gleaning Partnerships, which is a food recovery program; fresh food donated from farmer’s markets, grocery stores, and restaurants nearing expiration that can be eaten immediately. Some women have mail service at RH, which means they can pick up mail there five days a week.
There are three private showers with soft towels and vanity tables nearby, complete with makeup, nail polish, and hairdryers. The opportunity to get a clean, private shower and use beauty products uplifts the guests and ensures their dignity. There is a game and craft room that includes sewing machines and fabric. Nearby, a computer room is set up for working on resumes and job research. The space includes 2 washers and dryers along with clothing giveaways. Diapers are often in stock, and kids’ clothes are sorted into boxes.
Adults get to “shop” in the boutique for 20 minutes every two weeks, choosing 3 new outfits.
Guests can choose to “shop” in the boutique twice a month for new outfits.
RH is always looking for clothing donations as well as outdoor gear, such as sleeping bags. Luggage is another item in high demand. When donations are dropped off at the loading dock, volunteers quality check each item. RH partners with organizations that accept clothing donations so they have a place to send overflow donations as well as access to clothing items they need. These are The Arc Portland Metro, Dress for Success, and William Temple House. Those considering donating should sort clothing and make sure it is clean before bringing items here; being sensitive and intentional about condition makes less work for volunteers and saves time.
Donations of high-quality, gently used clothing are always welcome at Rose Haven.
RH was formerly housed in the 3700 square foot Immanuel Lutheran Church basement a block away. The church basement could barely fit all the services and guests along with staff, but served 3700 people in 2019. At the beginning of the pandemic, they moved outside to the sidewalk for two years so they could keep COVID distancing protocols in place, and it soon became apparent that they needed a bigger space. In 2021, 2122 people were served from the sidewalk. They expect to help many more this year! Now RH is in a building that used to house World Cup Coffee, blending in with businesses along NW Glisan. The building has 10,000 square feet with room for 202 people at once, and this location opened on International Women’s Day, March 8, 2022. The new space gives RH a chance to add more services in the future, such as a mental health program. Guests are more comfortable here with room to move around.
The physical shelter space is beautiful and soothing, following a trauma informed design to promote healing in the facility. A mural of flowers covers the bright walls; these were painted by volunteers, staff, and guests. Pale pink and neutral colors have a calming effect. Instead of harsh fluorescent lights, soft circle lights hang from the ceiling. The main area is wide and open with plenty of room for guests to line up to access services, relax on the couches, and visit. This new, open space feels pleasant and nurturing while a buzz of organized activity carries on, especially when compared to the small church basement.
Beautiful rose murals across the new space were pained by volunteers, staff and guests of Rose Haven.
Within the first three months in the new space, 200 new guests came to RH. That makes for a longer line on the sidewalk, and this visibility has brought some pushback from neighbors, even though RH is in the same neighborhood where it was for years– with no complaints. RH acts as a “triage center,” helping many women and their children to get the resources they need, including opportunities for housing. Each person RH serves has their own story and their own circumstances that brought them here. Women are extremely vulnerable on the streets and are often referred to as the hidden homeless. This is because many choose to stay hidden. Intentionally protecting themselves from abusers by staying out of the way means they don’t always get the help they need. RH provides a safe space for them.
In hopes of establishing communication and building acceptance of the facility, RH sends out a newsletter to nearby businesses and residents. They also reach out with events that are open to the public. RH hosts an open house on the third Thursday of each month. Yearly events include a Reigning Roses Walk to honor special women on Mother’s Day, a summer picnic, and the Timbers and Thorns joined recently for Stand Together Week. On August 18, RH will participate in a sustainable fashion show outside the Moxy Hotel as part of Portland’s Fashion Week. Anyone purchasing a ticket who uses the code rosehaven will get a 10% discount on their ticket, and 50% of the proceeds will go to funding RH services for women and children.
RH Development Director Liz Starke shared that there are times when staff have had to de-escalate situations with women who are suffering from trauma and mental health challenges. Recently this involved a woman who was emotionally distraught. RH staff met her where she was, stayed with her, and listened. Because she was in a safe space, she was able to calm down, and she thanked them for hearing her. Compassionate responses like this are the default at RH; safe containment of situations that could potentially escalate into bigger incidents.
Almost 1,000 volunteers work at RH each year, and 17 employees keep the place running, several with their own offices. Many of the high level donors are volunteers, and guests often come back when they can to volunteer; they have lived experiences to share with guests. Funding comes from private donations; individuals, businesses, and foundations.
Community is the heart of RH, and they are about to celebrate their 25-year anniversary of compassionate service. According to Liz Starke, success can look different for each individual who is part of the RH community. For some, they may get into housing quickly and not return. For others, the first thing they do when they are housed is to come back and show off their keys. It could also look like the elderly woman who comes here every single day to have coffee and get clean socks.
The Community Agreement is key to this place and everyone signs it; guests, volunteers, employees. Anyone can schedule a tour by emailing Liz Starke at email@example.com.
We are so grateful for the ways that local community organizations come together to educate our neighbors and support one another. Thank you HereTogether for connecting with us and spreading the word about Rose Haven!