Photo by Karen Cammack

Central Oregon

A Supportive Home for Displaced Women

Dawn Holland hit rock bottom when she lost the dilapidated car she’d been living in alongside Seattle’s Pioneer Square for two years.

At 28, she had fallen far fast. Working in Alaskan fisheries starting at age 18 brought a high-income “work hard, party hard” lifestyle that bolstered her addictive tendencies.

Dawn had earned hundreds of thousands of dollars, owned houses and lost it all to severe alcoholism. “If I stopped drinking, I would have seizures,” she recalls.

Addiction ran in the family, but her sister in Bend had gotten clean. With a bus ticket from her sister in hand, Dawn headed to Bend to begin a long road to recovery.

“The treatment centers didn’t help. Twenty-two detoxes didn’t help. Every time I got out of treatment or detox, I’d end up back in the same situation,” Dawn says. “I had no accountability at all. Left to my own devices, I was going to drink.”

Finally in 1998, Dawn stayed sober after she entered a women’s recovery house. “I ended up succeeding and thriving there. I went on to get married and have a child,” she says.

In 2014 she learned that same house, the only women’s sober living house in Bend at the time, was closing. Understanding what was at stake for Bend-area women in need, Directly Assisting Women Newly Sober (DAWNS) House was born.

Today DAWNS House has four staff members, runs two houses, is purchasing another, and provides on-site emergency RV housing to five families with children who had been homeless.

Families receive emergency housing in RVs located at a DAWNS House property.

Those eligible for the program include drug- or alcohol-addicted women who have been displaced—meaning they are leaving treatment centers or jail, in poverty and vulnerable to homelessness. House residents live in a structured environment, must pass drug tests and are held accountable. The nonprofit has a transitioned 640 women, with a 66% success rate.

Tammy Stokes, a Bend resident with five children and 11 grandchildren, was living on the street before she found DAWNS House.

“I was a really bad meth addict. I couldn’t stay clean for 10 minutes,” Tammy says. “I couldn’t keep a job. I couldn’t keep anything – my kids, my family.”

Clean since 2018, Tamny now serves as emergency services manager the nonprofit, helping women struggling just as she had. After getting clean for a year, she participated in a mentorship program that provided career training and a path to living wage jobs. She’s one of eight women so far to complete the mentorship program.

“Tammy could step away from DAWNS House right now and she would have a career as a certified recovery mentor or as a traditional healthcare worker, says Dawn.

“I’m eternally grateful. If it wasn’t for DAWNS House, I wouldn’t have been able to start the path to where I am today,” Tammy says.

Since its inception, grants from OCF and OCF donor advised funds have helped make DAWNS house viable. This support allowed it to continue providing vital services as the pandemic drove increased substance abuse and homelessness. In 2020, eight OCF donor advised funds provided support, and in 2021 a grant from the Oregon Community Recovery Fund helped cover costs for the RV emergency shelter.

“It takes a village to help our community. DAWNS House can’t do this alone,” Dawn says. “Our world is in a sad way right now, and it’s tough. The funds you give us are saving lives.”