PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Rose Haven community center has treated its guests to a can’t-miss holiday party annually since 1997, rain or shine. And that was no different this year.

“We are the only day shelter and community center in Portland serving people marginalized by their gender,” Rose Haven Development Director Liz Starke said. “So 25 years ago, we were founded as a place for women and children. And now, we welcome anybody who is trans or nonbinary as well. And today, we had our holiday party for 190 of our guests, most of which are experiencing homelessness.”

The holidays are a difficult time for many — but according to Starke, they can be especially hard on those who are experiencing extreme poverty and may have lost connections with family members. That’s why Rose Haven hosts events like the holiday party, a cause for celebration that gives guests a sense of dignity.

The service organization kicked off the annual shindig at 10 a.m. on Thursday, Dec. 22. Guests enjoyed a catered meal, won raffle prizes, and received gift cards and gift bags.

“I think that sometimes when we think about people that are struggling, it’s really easy to focus on the nitty-gritty like the basic needs,” Starke said. “But that’s not what makes us feel human, and that’s really what Rose Haven is about is celebrating the humanity in each of these individuals.”

Because the shelter doesn’t receive any government funding, it relies on sponsors and community donors to carry out its day-to-day programs. Fortunately, Starke said there hasn’t been a shortage of Portlanders who provide support.

In fact, community members are the ones who donated the raffle prizes and goodies that were distributed at Thursday’s holiday party — including the blankets that guests receive every year.

“We also have an angel that calls herself the blanket lady who’s an individual who goes out every single Black Friday and buys all the blankets that she can on sale,” Starke said. “People get to know her at the stores now but she has been doing this for about a decade and she provides a brand new blanket for every single Rose Haven guest so that they can wrap themselves in warmth each holiday season.”

Black Friday blanket deals may be long gone, but there are other ways to contribute to Rose Haven.

The community center accepts financial gifts online, has an Amazon wishlist that allows items to be shipped directly to its Northwest Portland location and has donation drop-offs every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon. During this winter season, Rose Haven is especially looking for luggage that guests can carry their belongings with, or waterproof, seasonal items and clothing.

Development Director Starke also emphasized the importance of helping the homeless community at a time when the cold temperatures make living outside even more life-threatening.

“I think that with everything going on in our community right now, there’s a lot of tension between our housed and unhoused neighbors,” she said. “And we just have to remember that these are our neighbors, and we have to treat everybody with kindness.”