The HILLTOP Award (Heroes Inspiring Leadership, Learning, Teamwork, Opportunity and Pride) was created in 2006 to honor individual and organizational efforts to address poverty in Multnomah County.

Dyvisha Gordon is the HILLTOP Award for Agency Staff/Volunteer Achievement winner for 2019.

Dyvisha Gordon

Every day, Dyvisha Gordon hears stories of people losing their homes during the Vanport Flood. The building of the Memorial Coliseum. The expansion of Emanuel Hospital. Or gentrification as families get priced out of Portland.

Her mission: bring them home.

As a member of the Portland Housing Bureau’s Preference Policy team, Dyvisha serves displaced households with generational ties to North and Northeast Portland. The goal is to correct decades of discriminatory policies in the city that disproportionately affect black households.

And that’s just her day job. In addition to serving on the Preference Team, Dyvisha also advocates for black mothers as a member of the Healthy Birth Initiative’s Community Action Network. She’s also involved with the Community Alliance of Tenants as an outreach and equity expert.

At any given time, Dyvisha is working to help a black family close on a house or secure an affordable apartment in a neighborhood they once had ties to. And if anyone knows the struggle, it’s her.

“I, too, have been homeless,” Dyvisha says. “I, too, have been a victim of domestic violence. I don’t want anybody to feel like I did when I was going through what I went through.”

It’s that experience, Dyvisha says, that motivates her every day. It also helps her connect with the people she serves on a deeper level. When Dyvisha tells people she knows how they feel, she means it.

Dyvisha traces her passion for serving others to her grandmother. Growing up in North Portland, she remembers her grandmother telling her during dinner table discussions, “If you don’t have nothing but a crumb, put that crumb in your community.”

“It was very much a do-for-others type of spirit,” she says.

Even though she had a tight family, that wasn’t enough to prevent Dyvisha from experiencing homelessness. At Dyvisha’s lowest point, she met someone who asked her, “What do you need? What are the barriers preventing you from being great?” That’s when everything changed.

Today, Dyvisha asks similar questions to the people she’s working with. At the same time, she’s keenly aware people distrust the institution she works for. But that doesn’t deter her. It motivates her. “I get to say that, while I wasn’t part of the damage, I get to be part of the solution,” she says.

Dyvisha jokes that she never knows if she’s going to retire. But that’s fine with her, because she does it out of love for her community.

“I’m preserving my joy,” she says, “and if my joy is the work that I’m doing, I’m going to continue doing it.”