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Burnside Shelter

“I Love Seeing Women’s Lives Changed”

Portland Rescue Mission staff have a passion for seeing lives changed. Every day we live out giving hope and restoring lives. Deanne, Program Manager for Women’s Connect, tells us about the beauty in her job.

Interviewer:                  Let’s just start off with your job title and what you do with Portland Rescue Mission.

Deanne:                       Deanne, Program Manager for Women’s Connect.

Interviewer:                  Perfect. And what do you like most about working at Portland Rescue, just as a whole?

Deanne laughing with a resident in the Connect Program at Portland Rescue Mission’s Burnside Shelter.

Deanne:                       I love seeing people change and watching their confidence grow. There’s usually a point where you see the light come on, and they’ve got new confidence in who they are and what they’re doing. When I start out, when they first come in, we take their picture and it’s for their badge, and then when they leave, I’ll take another picture. And it’s really interesting to see the contrast, how when they come in, a lot of times the smile or the look in their eyes, you can see the pain. When they’re on their way to their housing and they’re on their way out, it’s really cool, because you see the smile is coming from within. And there’s just a different countenance on their person.

Interviewer:                  It’s a hopeful smile. And as far as working with women, what makes you passionate about empowering the women in this program?

Deanne:                       I love seeing women’s lives changed. I love seeing that it is through small ways of helping people that can have a huge impact on the trajectory of their life. I love seeing people’s families changed and families reunited.

Interviewer:                  Do you have one particular story that stands out with family or with a certain woman?

Deanne:                       Yeah. Four years ago we had a woman in a program. She came in and she was, she’d been living out on the …

Interviewer:                  Alley?

Deanne:                       No, trail. Four years ago we had a woman that was living out on the trail. She came in and she was having an addiction issue. She had a lot of serious health issues. Her family would no longer allow her to be part of their lives, and she ended up coming into the program. She got into an outpatient program. We had her work on her physical, getting healthy, taking care of some of the serious health issues that she had, and by the end of six months, she was actually, she got into clean and sober housing and it was amazing.

Deanne with residents and staff members.

Deanne:                       She’s changing her life. Every couple months she’d come back and she would check in with me and say hi and just see what I’m up to, or she’d call and just leave me a message, let me know how she’s doing. Two weeks ago I was at Subway. I was in line and I heard a voice and I heard laughter. I looked, and sure enough, it was her. She was excited to see me and she introduced me to her grandchildren. It was her birthday, and so her grandkids had taken her out for her birthday. That was a part of her life that I didn’t get to see come together while she was still here in the program. Four years later I got to see her with the grandkids on her birthday.

Interviewer:                  So that’s something she was striving towards, getting her family back together?

Deanne:                       Yeah, that was a big part of the pain that she had, was that looking back at mistakes and the things and how it compiled, and yeah, she lost contact with her family. They didn’t want her to be around anymore because of her addiction. And so yeah, the change in her life, becoming clean and sober and getting into housing and really working so hard to get her life back on track, that was significant. But not having them in her life was still a pain. It was still painful. So two weeks ago I got to see kind of a full completion on them.

Interviewer:                  Oh, that’s amazing. Is there certain advice that you give women that just come into the program or something that you tell them, or do you tell them the story, like in four years that things like this can happen?

Deanne:                       Usually what I tell them is I want them to picture for me what they would like to see their life look like in six months or in a year, so that that picture is painted in their own mind. It’s helpful for me to know what they want, but it’s also helpful to hear it and hear them verbalize it. And then that helps me as we talk about what the program would look like for them, so here’s what we need to work on in the next six months then for that to happen. And so it’s a joint effort of coming up with a plan in order for them to see that goal.

Interviewer:                  Right. Oh, that’s beautiful. And one more question. What is unique about women on the street?

Deanne:                       I think one of the things that stands out for me is just their resilience. When I see women first come in, they’re very open about their brokenness, and the pain is really visible. You can see it, and they can’t hide what they’re going through. They can’t hide behind a facade. There’s really nothing. It’s exposed. That vulnerability is really clear for women coming in off the street.

Deanne as she listens to her residents.

Interviewer:                  Yeah, that’s a really good point. I feel like that in general women are just able to, not deal so much, but they’re open about their emotions.

Deanne:                       I feel like too, I look at my own life or you know, even people that have homes, but we can hide what we’re going through, whether it’s physical, emotional, had a fight with our partner or husband or whatever. We kind of hide that. And I find that when women come in, they’re usually at a point that they have nothing they’re trying to hide anymore, and it’s just raw. And I mean, in some ways that’s really good, because, well, in a lot of ways it’s good. It’s helpful to have people so honest, because then that gives me a real picture of where they’re at right now, but also what are the things we need to start working on and building that hope in them?

Interviewer:                  Okay. That was beautiful. Thank you for sharing.