A nonprofit that helps transition women out of homelessness is among eight recent N2N grantees.
By Elaine Chu, Senior Philanthropic Advisor
I was driving to work one morning, waiting for the stop light to change at 5th and Seneca, when I saw a woman standing on the corner with a sign that read, “Homeless, personal items needed.” My first thought was to roll down my window open and give her some money, but instead I pulled over and approached her. “What do you mean by personal items?” I asked. She explained how homeless women struggle with a lack of personal hygiene products. I gave her money for them, and in the weeks since, I have thought about her often.
Dignity for Divas (DfD) supports Puget Sound women who are facing these challenges, helping them transition out of homelessness by creating pathways from self-care to self-sufficiency. The organization, a first-time Neighbor to Neighbor (N2N) grantee this quarter, offers resources for women as they rebuild their confidence and establish a path to success, providing personal care items as well as transportation to shelters, and supplies for getting started in new temporary or permanent housing.
Founded by director Nikki Gane in 2012, DfD was inspired by Nikki’s own experience with homelessness and motivated by her desire to help other vulnerable women during a devastating time in their lives. Like Nikki, the majority of volunteers and staff trained, mentored and hired by DfD are African American with similar life experiences.
Since 2017, DfD has distributed more than 65,000 Diva Survival Kits, each containing 10 to 15 personal care and hygiene items for women, as well as men and children, who are living on the streets, in tent cities or in emergency shelters. The kits also include Diva Outreach Survival Guides with a map of area shelters; a list of shower facilities, food banks, local libraries with computer access; and DfD’s contact information. DfD’s Welcome Home Program focuses on women who have transitioned from homelessness to housing, providing both hygiene items and cleaning supplies, along with check-ins from staff and volunteers to help them cope with stress. More than 200 women have participated in this program since 2017.
But Nikki realized people need more than the kits and direct services. So she set out to facilitate the building of community by connecting people who are housed with people who are housing unstable. With the grant from N2N, DfD will host four South Seattle community meetings that offer a safe environment where the community can connect and talk. The dialogues in these meetings will center compassion, non-judgement, and understanding, allowing neighbors to speak their own stories and to share and receive resources.
At a recent workshop in Beacon Hill, the connections made between individuals were life-changing. A DfD participant found immediate housing with a family who lived in the area and allowed her to stay in the basement of their home, so long as she maintained work and checked in weekly with DfD staff.
“It was an amazing exchange of love for both parties and connected the group in deeper thoughtful solutions to the homeless crisis affecting us all,” Nikki says. “Creating an atmosphere for opportunity will result in more positive outcomes like this.”
Learn more about DfD and how you can become a Diva volunteer.
DfD is one of eight projects supported by the most recent Neighbor to Neighbor grant cycle. The other grant recipients are listed below.
All Seattle Kids Home, supporting a pilot effort to strengthen community, engage, and train Othello Tiny Homes residents in South Seattle as “Parent to Parent Coaches” focused on food equity and health access for low-income people of color.
First Five Years and Beyond, supporting the leadership of Liberian and African American people in Kent to serve as advocates for their communities and support other parents, particularly around the healthy development of preschool age children who traditionally don’t access such resources.
Hip Hop is Green, supporting black and brown youth in Seattle to act as “street team leaders” promoting healthy eating, wellness and urban farming at events such as community “green” dinners, dialogues and hip-hop music events.
Nepantla Cultural Arts, supporting Latinx-centered, arts-related lectures and workshops focused on engaging White Center youth and community in promoting local cultural art and artists, building stronger community and promoting social justice through arts.
New Holly Community Cooks!, supporting diverse New Holly residents in South Seattle to increase leadership thorough organized community dinners, showcasing cooking skills and recipes and promoting health food options especially to youth during school time breaks.
Reclaiming Our Expected End (ROEE), supporting a leadership group focused on formerly incarcerated black and brown young adults in Kent focused on community healing, leadership training on the importance of changing policy and systems, and access to supportive resources for jobs and housing.
Viet Q, supporting the leadership development, coalition building and, planning for the first-ever LGBTQ Vietnamese conference in South Seattle/White Center that will serve as a catalyst for advocacy campaigns focused on increased civic engagement and combatting homophobia, transphobia, and cultural norms.
We invite you to learn more about the purpose and history of the Neighbor to Neighbor program by watching this short video.