Door to Grace: Creating Space
A room full of girls laughing and cracking jokes, the silence of a sincere passing on of truth and wisdom, the warmth of a community gathered around the dinner table; this is hope in Portland, Oregon.
Portland is home to bridges, books, and brews. And since 2011, it has also been home to the Door to Grace Day Home, a space to provide young survivors of commercial exploitation with healing services and a place to call home. I could try and encapsulate all that Door to Grace is in my own description, but I think it is put best in the words of Roxanne Weiner. Roxanne is the Director of Programs and Case Management at Door to Grace, whom I had the privilege of interviewing for this piece.
Q: Each time I have visited Door to Grace in Portland, I have been inspired by hearing many stories of surrounding sexually exploited children with love and care. Can you tell me a little bit about how Door to Grace got started?
Door to Grace started in 2009 after a group of individuals came together to create awareness (about sex trafficking) in the city. In those gatherings, it was decided to form a 501(c)3 with the intention to provide shelter and services to girls who were victims of sexual exploitation. Many of those individuals spoke with various survivors and they began to notice a common theme in each of their stories. While these women had moved from place to place throughout their life they all longed for a safe and loving home. Door to Grace had the desire to create that space for them. In 2012, the Day Home was created with all of the important aspects of a home -- a kitchen with food, a dinner table to eat around and hang out, cozy couches, an open door, and most importantly the building would be filled with familiar faces.
Q: Can you tell me a story of a child who was empowered through your program?
One girl that I can think in particular is a young lady who is currently going to college and is working towards getting her nursing degree. Through the support of many volunteers and her mentor, she has been able to put in the hard work to continue her education. There have been set backs along the way but she continues to push through and lean on the care and love of those at Door to Grace.
Q: What does a day in the Door to Grace home look like?
Some days, it looks like meeting with individuals who are interested in participating or being part of the mission of Door to Grace. Other times it looks like laughter on the faces of our youth participants. It can be a room full of girls who are laughing and cracking jokes, with little children running around making all in the room smile. It can be quiet (rare but it does happen) when someone speaks wisdom and truth into another. As we move to the future, Door to Grace will continue to be a safe place where girls are able to discover, laugh, and are encouraged to be who they are.
Q: What is specifically important about fighting against sex trafficking in your own community?
Fighting against sex trafficking in our community is important because we want to create a safe place for youth within the areas they live. Creating an environment that encourages and fosters safety in our community is so valuable to our society and the well-being of our youth. Everyone deserves to live and grow up in an area that protects, rather than exploits. Another aspect of fighting against sex trafficking that is so vital is teaching youth their worth and value. We want to stand against lies that these youths are told on a daily basis and speak truth into who they are.
Q: What advice would you give to Dressember advocates who care about seeing justice achieved in the world?
My first advice would be to never give up, even when it seems like there isn’t hope or there isn’t change happening. We get to be the light in very dark and hard times, and it is important to always have hope. I believe that it is also important to link arms with others who are also seeking to end social justice issues in the world. We are living in a time where people are desiring and fighting to see change, and we get to have a role in that. My other advice would be to find your passion and stay with that. We all have different opinions, talents, and desires. All of those can be used to fight social injustices. Working in social justice is not one-size fits all, everyone gets to have their own unique role.
Getting to know Roxanne, a graduate of Oregon State University, and learn more about Door to Grace was a true gift. For advocates in the Portland or Seattle area, there are a myriad of ways to get involved. From those skilled in cooking, to case workers making referrals, there is a place for everyone at the table of serving with Door to Grace. Other ways to get involved include volunteering at the day home, hosting a fundraising party in your own home, providing pantry supplies, or even joining the staff.
About the Author
Reagan Swier enjoys fashion, food, travel, writing, and more. She believes that all of those passions (and your passions too!) can be used to advocate for social justice and create a better world for future generations. Currently, she is a Junior at a small university in Oregon, where she helps lead her school’s IJM (International Justice Mission) chapter. She enjoys the creative scene of the Portland area, which inspires her writing and feeds her passion for social entrepreneurship.