To be driven is one thing, but to be Jacquelynn Loos is a whole other. The first survivor on leadership at REST, a mother of a five-year-old, and an entrepreneur with plans to go back to school, Jackie is an example of what hard work can create. Beyond hard work, I have never met someone fight an uphill battle this difficult and still meet every day with an unwavering smile and optimism. I have never seen someone with so much hope and love for the world and its people, even after all she’s been through.
“I learned to live and love life for what it is. Hope and grief, good and bad, they all coexist. And because they coexist, there are going to be bad days but I remember days aren’t all going to be bad. Life isn’t meant to be perfect, it is meant for growth and opportunity for us to learn and love and experience. Life is about experiencing.” – Jacquelynn Loos
It is hard to reinvent yourself. It is hard to be hopeful for change when there are countless barriers holding you in place. And it is hard to do it all alone. Jacquelynn can speak to this. Even when out of “the life”, it took her 6 years to clean up the mess it left her in. Living in a hotel because no one would lease her a house due to her criminal record for prostitution, ruined credit, and bankruptcy, Jacquelynn had so much telling her that she was stuck. To add to that, no one was there supporting her on this strenuous journey and there were no places offering services like there are today.
In the beginning, this mess made it difficult for her to completely leave. Still living in a hotel, she had to pay the high costs of living because her job at a cafe wasn’t going to cut it. So while working part time as a barista, she also had to work part time in prostitution— all so she could pay her rent and hopefully pay down her debt. This wasn’t until she got a job at a men’s department store and her friend gave her a room for 500 bucks a month, that she fully exited “the life.” Job after job, she was developing as a professional, all by herself.
After receiving a call from a friend employed by REST encouraging her to apply for a position, Jacquelynn started out as a peer support specialist and fell in love with this organization’s mission and atmosphere. Although she was previously unable to heal from her trauma because of all the obstacles she had to deal with, REST’s supportive and caring environment helped mend her.
”I was able to heal because I was creating a healing space,” Jacquelynn explains.
This healing space is shown through REST’s ability to build strong relationships. By having an integrated health clinic with professionals in trauma therapy, chemical dependency, nurse practitioners, and more, REST is able to meet clients on their terms. They are all there to help these survivors- children, men, and women- reach whatever goal they are working toward.
Before Jacquelynn moved up to becoming REST’s Community Advocate Supervisor, she was still contributing monumentally to the community as a Peer Support Specialist at REST. Working with Seattle Against Slavery on Freedom Signal, Jacquelynn contributed heavily to the victim outreach portion for two and a half years. Freedom Signal is an integrated set of technologies used to “disrupt the purchase and sale of trafficked sex online.” Jacquelynn would use the numbers that were scraped from websites where sex is sold to send out a text message introducing herself, REST’s services and that an advocate is available 24/7. The first year of this partnership, REST went from receiving 3-5 victim referrals via street outreach to 43 referrals using Freedom Signal. So far in 2019, REST has had 290 positive responses to these outreach text messages.
Things continue to look up for Jacquelynn. Just this last year, Jacquelynn entered Walls Property Management essay contest. With a 350-word limit to answer the question of “What would you do if you had your rent paid for a year?” the winner of this contest would win free rent for the year. Her essay talked about being a single mother to her 4-year-old son, dreaming to get a college education, and following through with her business plan for creating the first survivor led consulting agency in Seattle. She won. This was the first time Jaqulelynn Loos’s name was on a lease and even better this allowed her to pay out all her debt, making her dreams more reachable.
This past June, Jacquelynn launched her website for her own non-profit, Queer United Ending Exploitation (QUEE). Noticing through a survey that as many as sixty percent of human trafficking survivors identify as LGBTQ+, Jacquelynn wanted to create a nonjudgmental place for LGBTQ community. As this community obviously still feels targeted and afraid, Jacquelynn’s non-profit directly addresses this issue by giving those in that community a space where they feel protected.
“I’m not here for anybody’s validation. I love who I am and I am not ashamed of who I am”
Jacquelynn is living proof that to be happy starts with loving yourself. To love yourself starts when you believe you are worth it. To be worth it begins with realizing that you alone are enough. Here is someone who could’ve been mad at the world but instead meets every day with the knowledge that she is beautiful, inside and out.
The beauty of her world view is not limited to Jacquelynn’s belief in herself: Jacquelynn believes that everyone deserves to be the hero of their own story. Despite the wonderful work she pursues, Jacquelynn states that, “We are not saviors. We are here to love you, to show you that you are worth more than what people have told you are,” and it is on this note that I leave more in awe of her capacity to love than ever before.
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