dee Clarke


For more than 20 years, dee Clarke was a tireless advocate, always speaking up and speaking out with compassion in support of social justice.  dee passed away on Sunday, October 31, 2021, at Gosnell Memorial Hospice House and will be dearly missed by all of us here at Preble Street. 

Whether as a person with lived experience, an advocate, a colleague, a teacher, a partner, or as a valued, trusted friend, dee modeled the Preble Street values of treating everyone with dignity and respect. Most importantly, dee was a mom and there was nothing she was more proud of or loved more than her kids. dee’s Preble Street family sends our deepest condolences to her children Mei Li, Shoa, and Staci, and her sister Rose and her brother Jack. 

From her experiences in soup kitchens, on street corners, and in homeless shelters, dee listened to those who needed to be heard and passionately spoke up for social justice. dee worked tirelessly on behalf of poor and oppressed peoples with fierce compassion, kindness, forgiveness, and love. 


This video, created by Rashida Zagon a friend of the family, was shared at dee’s Celebration of Life on Saturday, November 13, 2021 at Indigo Arts Alliance in Portland. The Celebration was hosted by Survivor Speak USA and brought together so many who loved and treasured dee.

Through her work with Homeless Voices for Justice (HVJ), dee grew as a leader. She fought for housing rights and expanded mental health and substance use disorder treatments. With her dear friend Steve Huston, she fought to establish the ‘first in the nation’ safeguards for homeless people who were being attacked solely because they were homeless. In addition to HVJ, dee led on other advocacy efforts to bring justice to our community, including POWER (Portland Organized to Win Economic Rights) and Community WELLness (Women Engaged in Learning Leading Neighborhood Enrichment Sensitivity and Service).  

In 2015, dee founded Survivor Speak USAan organization led by people who are survivors of trafficking. dee’s experiences sharpened her belief that survivors must be driving solutions. Survivor Speak USA lives out its mission via a combination of outreach, education and training, legislative policy advocacy, and intensive survivor mentorship and leadership development. 

In an interview about her work with Survivor Speak USA, she explained that “we are more than our stories, and also have the best insights on solutions because we have the lived experience.” 

At the groundbreaking for Preble Street’s Florence House in 2010, dee closed her remarks by saying, “I love you all, too, because you care enough to do such a big thing as this. I, too, see the hopes and dreams over the despair.” To all who knew her, dee embodied hope, love, and courage and will continue to serve as a model for how to advocate and bring the voices of people experiencing poverty to the tables of power and policymaking.  


mom. Written by Shoa Clarke, dee’s son.   “My mother was taken from us far too soon. But in the time she had, she lived a rich and full life as a mother, sister, and aunty, as an advocate, teacher, and friend, as an actor and playwright, as a lover of dancing and as a watcher of birds. Through her work, she changed both lives and laws in the state of Maine. She taught us that you don’t need money or titles or degrees to make a difference. All of what she achieved was simply fueled by love. At her core, she loved people.

I believe that we all have the capacity to love one another like my mom loved us. If we can express that love genuinely without fear and without fatigue, then we can live like dee lived, we can speak like dee spoke. We can continue her legacy, as a collective voice for justice. I know that’s what she would want.”

Feature obituary: Dianne ‘dee’ Clarke, 64, leader in fight against sex trafficking and homelessness

Survivor Speak USA statement

“As we mourn the loss of dee, I have reflected a lot on how many communities, people, and policies dee touched and will continue to touch. The impact that dee has had cannot be overstated. It is hard to imagine a city council meeting or a legislative session without her light and power. Our communities are a better home today because dee shared her voice and vision with us. She shared her gifts until the very end of her life. I am grateful that we had the opportunity to learn and be inspired by dee and I look forward to the ways that her vision and inspiration will continue to shape our movements for years to come.” Heather Lynne Zimmerman