Chair Deborah Kafoury joined residents, graduates and shelter supporters to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Jean’s Place, the first short-term residential program for women in Portland. Transition Projects serves 60 women at the NE 11th site, helping them move from homelessness into housing.
At a gala luncheon to mark the milestone, the Jean’s Place community surprised Chair Kafoury by awarding her the Gretchen Miller Kafoury Advocacy Award. The award, named for the Chair’s mother and the “godmother of affordable housing’’ has been given every year since 2010. It was established to honor advocates for homeless women. Gretchen Kafoury, who died in 2015, was the first recipient.
“She fought for a more just society - one without homelessness or hunger. She prevailed upon us to do the same,’’ said Lee Thomas, former board chair and 2012 recipient.
Chair Kafoury thanked those who gathered, saying she was honored to be recognized as an “apple who didn’t fall far from the tree.’’
She then lauded the work of DeWanna Harris, a mentor program manager who has helped more than 100 women transition. Among them, Danita Worthy, a former Jean’s Place resident who is now housed and helping others.
Worthy said after her four children graduated, she downsized into shared housing. But when that didn’t work out, she found herself without a job and ruined credit from co-signing a loan years before. She wound up sleeping in her car three years. Relief came when Worthy heard about Transition Projects and Jean’s Place at the furniture store where she worked. “That call saved my life," she said.
Worthy moved into Jean’s Place, and from there, graduated from the mentoring program and moved into housing. Today, she volunteers for Transition Projects.
She told those gathered that the best part was realizing “I do matter. I am worthy.’’ To her Jean’s Place supporters, she said: “Thank you!”