"Grateful to be alive:" Gateway Center provides hope to domestic violence survivors

June 14, 2018

Tiffany Eggleton was living out of her truck and struggling to outrun an abuser who kept finding her, when a friend told her about the Gateway Center five years ago.

“It was the first place that I felt safe … for the first time in many years,” Eggleton said. “I’m very grateful to be alive today. I really feel like I shouldn’t be, so I really do owe that to... the Gateway Center. 

Former Gateway Center client Tiffany Eggleton hugs center director Martha Strawn Morris.

Opened in 2010, the Gateway Center for Domestic Violence Services provides a wide range of aid and advocacy to survivors of domestic violence. Advocates, called navigators, can help survivors get restraining orders, create safety plans, find employment and identify and access other services. The center also features an open kitchen, childcare spaces, a playground and a satellite courtroom, so survivors do not have to risk their safety during court proceedings.

Eggleton said her navigators “walked beside me. And they didn’t tell me what to do and they didn’t shame me when my abuser coerced me back into being with him at certain times. They helped just pick me back up and helped me continue on my journey.”

The center operates under an intergovernmental agreement between Multnomah County and the City of Portland, each of which contribute to its funding.

“The Gateway Center serves as a critical anchor in our continuum of domestic violence services,” said Rose Bak, co-director of the Department of County Human Services’ Youth and Family Services division, which oversees domestic violence prevention programs. “It’s really a national model for services.” 

Youth and Family Services Division co-director Rose Bak calls the Gateway Center a "critical anchor" in the County's domestic violence prevention efforts.

Eggleton and Bak both spoke before the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday, joining Gateway Center director Martha Strawn Morris, who provided an update on the center’s operation.

Morris said 4,652 adults and children received services at the Gateway Center last year. The majority (93 percent) of the center’s visitors were women and about half were people of color. Some seven percent received services in a language other than English and the center offered assistance in 25 different languages, Morris said.

Nearly half of the people who come in are seeking safety services, typically a restraining order, Morris said. They are then introduced to a variety of wraparound services and support.

That was the case with Eggleton. Through the Gateway Center, she was able to access long term housing, childcare and other support services for her children, economic empowerment assistance and financial help to return to school. She is now studying for a master’s degree in social work and working as a domestic violence recovery mentor at Raphael House. 

Gateway Center Director Martha Strawn Morris, center; with Rose Bak, left; and John Herrera, program manager for Immigration Legal Services at Catholic Charities

“A lot of times you hear ‘It took a village,’ but I really feel like it took all of Portland to get me where I am today and the Gateway Center was an amazing part of that,” Eggleton said. “I have a life full of choices.”

The Gateway Center has recently expanded, complementing its offerings with immigration and legal services for survivors. The center also is studying the needs of older adults who seek protection orders and plans to release a report about those findings in the fall.

In the coming year, the center plans to add more ways to measure the impact of its services and deepen its commitment to equity and racial justice. 

“It’s becoming increasingly clear that all of us that are fighting oppression must become part of a united movement,” Morris said. “We must actively struggle with equity, both with what it means and more importantly how to achieve it.”