We need each other: Trauma in community
How work with women experiencing homelessness and trauma teaches the healing power of togetherness.
Every Friday night, from across the city of Portland, women arrive at a church in SE Portland for something called "Rahab's Sisters." A small, grassroots organization, Rahab's Sisters offers "radical hospitality" to women and those with vulnerable gender identities who experience marginalization due to poverty, houselessness, sex work, violence, or substance use. Guests of Rahab's Sisters share a warm meal, receive basic hygiene supplies, and create community together through activities, conversations, and moments of connection.
I am one of the counselors on a growing team that offers support and care to our guests through a weekly support group called "Friday Circle." All guests are welcome- there's no agenda or expectation, except that they bring themselves, wherever they find themselves that evening. We always have flowers and candles, and we often start Friday Circle by playing a beautiful piece of music or reading a poem together. The topics we cover include grief and loss, hope, suicidality, pain and trauma, gratitude, identity, and more.
Something magic happens on Friday nights. Huddled around in the drafty church sanctuary, there are powerful moments of connection.
A woman who has been hurt time and time again explores what it would be like to let someone in again.
A guest who often feels invisible is listened to with care and respect.
A newcomer, there for the first time, is welcomed in to the group with joy and hospitality.
Someone who fights daily to choose life over death holds the hand of a new friend, and they cry together. They encourage each other to keep fighting. "We need each other," they say.
It's a true privilege to be witness to the strength, courage, resilience, and love of these women. And their stories are our stories. How often do we take the risk to show up again, after being hurt? Who listens to us when we feel small and invisible? Who welcomes us into new spaces? And who holds our hand when we're on the edge and reminds us that we need each other? My hope for you is that you know: We need you too.
For more information on Rahab's Sisters, check out their website.
If you are feeling alone and unsafe, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.