WORDS Merlin Varaday | PHOTOGRAPHY Tim Sugden
Rebekah Albert says she experiences joy on a daily basis as the Executive Director of Rose Haven (627 NW 18th Ave.), a welcoming day shelter for women and their children who have experienced a traumatic life event, such as abuse or homelessness. There is a distinctly vibrant aura of community, care and happiness at the place where any woman can come to rebuild a life for herself and her family.
Rebekah began her career as an investment banker. One of her clients was a nonprofit agency serving children and families dealing with cystic fibrosis. After being invited to serve on their board, she became inspired by the profound impact the small organization was having on the families it served. Rebekah went on to serve as the Marketing and Communications Officer for the YMCA of Greater Seattle. She then transitioned to the position of Development/Marketing Director for the Humane Society of the Willamette Valley and later became their Executive Director. Nineteen years at Loaves & Fishes followed, with Rebekah filling the roles of Center Manager, then Marketing Director and finally Regional Director.
“These positions all provided opportunities for me to broaden my understanding of how the lack of social and economic equity in so many segments of our population creates systemic hardships,” Rebekah says. “Being with Rose Haven has provided me with new challenges and opportunities to work specifically with women, people of color, LGTBQIA communities and older adults. These are some of the intersections in society where I am most inspired to serve.”
What is the meaning behind the name Rose Haven? When Sr. Cathie founded Rose Haven in 1996, her goal was to create a safe space for women and children suffering from loss of home and abuse during the daytime hours, when women expressed the greatest need. The name “Rose” had significance because it is the childhood name of Mary Euphrasia, the foundress of Sr Cathie’s order, The Sisters of Good Shepherd. As significantly, the rose symbolizes the inherent beauty in the women we serve. “Haven” fits because our mission is “to maintain a safe, respectful community while providing our guests with support and services to assist them in regaining stability in their lives.” So, Rose Haven reflects both our heritage and mission.
When women have experienced a disruptive and traumatic life event, what do they need? Which services provided by Rose Haven can help? Rose Haven is based on four values: individual worth, compassion, reconciliation and zeal, or love in action. These values are part of our “Good Shepherd Heritage,” which I spoke about earlier. We welcome anyone who self-defines as a woman, transgender or gender variant.
On the first visit, and as many times thereafter as desired, guests will meet individually with an advocate, working together one-on-one, to determine their personal goals for the day. Advocates provide referrals for emergency and other kinds of housing, transportation, medical and mental health.
Most recently, we opened our new shower facilities. This is the outcome of the generous support and leadership of many people, including our great community partners at The Bensimon Center, Reimers and Jolivette and First Immanuel Lutheran Church. We also serve healthy meals from 8:30 a.m. to noon and from 1:00 pm to 4:00 p.m., and guests may eat when they wish. For some guests, a decent meal, clean clothing and a safe place to rest is what they most need.
Later on, they may decide to meet with an advocate about other needs: emergency nighttime shelter, other housing resources, replacement ID or medical resources. They may visit one of our nurse volunteers to receive first aid. Moms drop in for diapers and wipes and clothing for their children. Kids receive backpacks filled with school supplies before school starts.
When forging a new path, women have emotional and spiritual needs, as well as physical needs. How does Rose Haven help fill those needs? We have a wide variety of activities, classes and workshops to empower our guests. They can attend counseling, support groups and guided meditation, as well as classes on writing, budgeting, computer and resume building. We have creative and fun groups, including beading, art and bingo – these are also popular.
At Rose Haven, we celebrate holidays, monthly birthdays, Breakfast with Santa and a huge summer picnic. Although our families and
women are dealing with painful, complex issues, we sing and dance, we have fun. There is a lot of laughter here!
What are some of the obstacles that women who have experienced a traumatic event might face while rebuilding their lives? Many stem from poverty, including loss of home, abuse and assault. National statistics report that half the women experiencing homelessness have been in a domestic violence situation. Multnomah County’s 2017 Point in Time reports a 16 percent increase in the total number of homeless women since the last count in 2015. During this time, the number of women sleeping in emergency nighttime shelter beds has also doubled. The number of chronically homeless people (those who have been outside more than a year) has also increased by 24 percent during this time.
The women and children of Rose Haven reflect a diverse population: women of color, older women and members of the LGBTQIA community. Most are in survival mode, living day to day, in conditions of dire poverty. Many struggle with chronic and acute addiction and/or mental health issues.
We address all these barriers by welcoming people where they are. Rose Haven is very low barrier, meaning we don’t require a lot on the front end. People come in as they are. We offer a wide variety of resources, from which each person is free to choose. The approach is holistic, coming from an understanding that each person is capable of choosing her own path. Our role is to respect, empower and love each one.
Women can shop at Rose Haven! Can you describe how that works? Women can shop once a month for three complete outfits. We have volunteers who act as personal shoppers and assist every person through their shopping experience. The clothing is all donated from a variety of retailers and private individuals, new or gently used. The shop offers everything from socks, underwear, coats, shoes, and sportswear to job interview-worthy apparel. We also have children’s clothing. Everyone receives shampoo, conditioner, soap and feminine hygiene supplies.
How can women become connected with services at Rose Haven? Many of our guests come to us through word of mouth. Women in shelters and camps tell each other about us, and many actually bring new guests when they come in. Union Gospel Mission, Salvation Army, Volunteers of America, Catholic Charities, Transition Projects and JOIN are among our more than 100 community partners who often refer women to us.
How can members of the community support Rose Haven’s programs? First, by recognizing our relationships with those we serve. The women and children of Rose Haven include our own family members, friends, neighbors and colleagues. Loss of home can strike any one of us, at any time.
We welcome your participation in our community. You can volunteer your time and share your expertise by teaching a class or serving on a committee. You can donate clean, seasonally appropriate clothing or make a generous, tax deductible donation. Rose Haven is a nonprofit organization and we receive no government funding. Rose Haven relies on individuals, businesses and foundations to provide our financial resources.
What are you most proud of? Our guests! They come to Rose Haven carrying burdens which most of us can’t fathom: loss of home, abuse, illness, addiction and poverty. And their suffering takes a huge toll on their hearts, souls, bodies and minds. I am inspired by their tenacity. I find my own hope in their capacity for hope. They make me proud.
My work here at Rose Haven is very meaningful to myself and those we serve. I get to provide a safe, peaceful, and relaxing experience, for a community that too often lingers in chaos and anxiety.
What does RH mean to me?
I’ve been coming to Rose Haven for a long time. My husband and his ex-fiance brought me here and I’ve been coming here ever since. I love Rose Haven because it’s a safe place for women and their children to come, eat a hot meal, take showers and have fun. The advocates here, I love talking to because they listen more than a mental health counselor would. Thank you Rose Haven for everything you’ve done for us!
I’ve had the pleasure of working with the amazing staff, volunteers and guests of Rose Haven for 4 and a half years. The commitment, love and support that the staff and volunteers share for the women we serve warms my heart daily!
What does RH mean to me?
Rose Haven means blessed home of roses, kindness, understanding and patience of folks in roles of the front desk. Rose Haven means comfort, food and how to have foundation in your life.
What does RH mean to me?
Rose Haven to me means now and always facing my greatest fear. A fear which I do not believe most people understand, a fear which I was beholden to. The fear that everything I am not supposed to be I am. Taking ownership of it, turning it around and making it my greatest strength is me being myself. To be nurtured by the staff and guests has allowed me to be brave to face the next half of my life, God willing, to become what I truly am.
My work centers around advocating on the behalf of those accessing our services and making connections to community resources. It is a privilege to serve the diverse and resilient community at Rose Haven.