SEATTLE -- As we get ready to celebrate International Women’s Month in March, Q13 News is proud to celebrate local women who inspire and forge the way for other women. Every Tuesday for the next four weeks, we’re featuring a local "Remarkable Woman," and one of them will be chosen to represent our region in a nationwide celebration in New York City.
Meet Nikki Gane-Butler. She is the founder and director of Dignity for Divas. She built the non-profit from the ground up, helping people heal from homelessness. But it’s why she does it that is truly remarkable.
“Dignity, dignity, dignity is the start! Dignity is the start! You have to start with dignity,” says Nikki.
If our words really do have power, than maybe her remarks are the foundation for what is possible.
“This is how you start a new life! This is how you do it!" says Nikki.
Another woman, ready to rebuild her new home, is gifted with treasures from a humble stockroom inside this South Seattle office.
"She’s going to get home and stand in her living room and be like, oh my God, I have all this stuff, and start to unpack. The whole idea is to unpack the hurt, unpack the pain, unpack that experience and settle into happiness. Unpack dignity and put dignity all in her place so she’s going to walk around and feel so valued. And her old life isn’t even going to matter anymore. It’s going to be an, 'I remember when,'” says Nikki.
Nikki knows, because Nikki remembers, too.
“It’s good sometimes to look back at where you began. I think sometimes we get so caught up in the finish line that we forget about the race. There’s a picture of me and I’m on the floor and I’m looking through family photos and if you look behind me, you see the suitcase,” says Nikki.
Not so long ago, Nikki found herself homeless after escaping an abusive marriage.
“Dignity is the first thing you lose being homeless. Dignity was what I lost. I lost my home. I lost my identity. I lost all the connections I had. I lost relationships. So I started to lose myself. I started to lose me. Who am I? So it started with me, and I literally built out every program on what I experienced. Every woman that walks in is a part of me walking in with them. So I literally want to give them, it’s like talking to that broken part of me, that I couldn’t help at the time,” says Nikki.
If Nikki looks familiar, it’s because we first introduced you to her back in 2015 as she hit the streets one chilly December night, delivering supplies to people experiencing homelessness.
“You can help. It’s the smallest thing and everyone’s appreciative. I mean, I started this in my living room,” says Nikki.
Dignity for Divas has come a long way over the years.
“There’s days where it’s challenging, but everything worth doing is challenging. I mean what do you think, it’s going to be easy?” says Nikki.
She’s helped countless people all over western Washington.
“It’s not just someone in an encampment who’s experiencing homelessness. We are all experiencing homelessness, together, all of us,” says Nikki.
Recently, she started hosting meetings at public libraries around Seattle.
“We’re doing a community workshop, bringing residents who are housed and residents who are unhoused together, in a room to have a conversation. So think about a few things, why it might be hard for somebody experiencing homelessness to kind of bounce back. How can we work together to make this OK for all of us? What can we do collectively to make someone’s journey a little bit easier? Even if it’s just looking at someone and saying, ‘Hi, I see you,'" says Nikki.
Her work hasn’t gone unnoticed. She reads aloud the words that got her nominated.
“So it says, Nikki Gane-Butler is remarkable in many ways. She is increasingly being asked to speak to groups, given her experience and passion around this topic and is becoming a well-known advocate on issues related to homelessness. You know, it’s really something to see somebody else write about you. You know, like, what they feel about what you’re doing, because the thing is, I know that people can come back,” says Nikki.
If words really do have power, these words only empower Nikki to do more. And maybe her own remarks really are a foundation for what is possible.
“Remarkable is showing up every day. You could be a remarkable student, you could be a remarkable mom, you could be a remarkable teacher. You know what’s remarkable to me? That lady showing up here today. What’s remarkable to me is that somebody believed in themselves enough to give themselves another chance. That is remarkable. Someone didn’t give up. That’s remarkable,” says Nikki.
For more information on Dignity for Divas click here.