A couple of weeks ago, our team received word that a young woman we had served earlier this year had died. We’ve been taking time to process; to grieve. And we want to honor her memory by giving space and recognition to her life. We wish you could have known her. So here, while still honoring her privacy and the privacy of her family,  we want to share who she was with you.

Here, we’ll call her Chloe.

When you ask Amanda, one of our housing support staff, about Chloe, a smile immediately lights up her face. “After the first couple of nights that she was here, she perked up. Regardless of her situation, she was always smiling, and she certainly walked with a pep in her step. She was outspoken and you knew instantly if she liked you or not.”

The people we help – men, women, and children – not all of their stories have a happy ending. For some, like Chloe, the end comes too soon. And while we are overjoyed to share good news of hope and progress and brighter days with you, our family – volunteers, donors, friends, partners, funders – we want you to know that doesn’t happen every single day. Safety, recovery, breaking free – these don’t exist on a linear plane. Recovery and moving forward and learning how to love again are all messy journeys, and arriving safely beyond it all isn’t easy, it isn’t quick, and it certainly isn’t a given.

But that’s why what we do here matters. That’s why tenets like “love first” and “stronger together” aren’t just empty words: they are key pillars, the driving forces, of how we conduct ourselves, how we serve our community, and how we build relationships with the survivors we serve.

You make that possible. When women like Chloe come to our safe shelter in need of resources and support, those things are available to them because of you. When they grapple with rediscovering themselves and their identity beyond the victimization they’ve experienced, they are able to break through and break free because of you.

“She had a lot of dreams, and I think it’s important to note that her demons told her those dreams were just impossible,” says Amanda. “Even though that was the case she still held on, I think, to the hope of one day being set free. She liked to laugh, and I think the only time I saw her without that big smile was the last night she was here. I believe firmly she knew that this organization as a whole loved her and cared about her. If she hadn’t she never would have corresponded with us when she left. I think that’s also a testament to how great and powerful love can be, even if we only have a short time to show it.”

Chloe, like all of the survivors we serve, was not defined by her victimization. She was not defined by the trauma she lived through. She was a feisty young woman who loved to laugh. She had a family who loved her. Like all of us, she had dreams and demons and hopes and fears and fire. And we miss her. We miss her smile, and we miss her presence. And we mourn her: we mourn that she is gone, that we won’t see her go on to tackle the dreams she held onto so tightly. But we fight even harder. We cling tight to love and peace and paving a way forward – for Chloe, and for all who will come after her.

“I have peace in knowing that she never forgot how much we loved her,” Amanda says. “There was definitely something special about her, and I really think her life in the end would be a great lesson to us all about how fragile the souls we work with really are. I’m sure in a weird way that would be one of her goals accomplished.”

To Chloe – we love you. We miss you. We know you are free.