From an announcement by Alameda Family Services:
It is with deep sadness that Alameda Family Services announces the untimely death of DreamCatcher Shelter Director Nika Dawkins St. Claire. Ms. St. Claire was killed in an automobile accident in Arizona, along with her daughter, Savannah Dawkins, earlier this month. A memorial service will be held at 11:00 am, Friday, Aug. 3, at the Seventh Day Adventist Church, 900 – 34th Street (at Market) in Oakland.
Ms. St. Claire, “Nika” to all, was a guiding light and mainstay of the DreamCatcher Homeless Shelter for youth in Oakland. Nika counseled, cajoled, disciplined and was a source of inspiration to dozens of runaway, homeless and sexually exploited teenagers during the ten years she served at DreamCatcher.
Nika helped DreamCatcher realize a long-standing goal to expand its shelter and services. Alameda Family Services and DreamCatcher recently received grant funding and City approvals to renovate and expand its services in a nearby building. Nika was instrumental in preparing the proposals and presenting the case for expansion to the Alameda County Health Services Agency and the State of California EHAPCD agency.
Nika directed community-based programs for over 30 years, spending 23 years working in chemical dependency treatment programs when she authored several articles and book chapters. The last 10 years she has been working with runaway and homeless youth. Throughout her career, sexual exploitation of women and young girls has been a common issue. She was a founding member of SEMRISE (formerly the Sexually Exploited Minors Network) and served as president of their Board of Directors.
“Nika had long been a part of the Foster Care Youth Alliance community. She was a champion for homeless and exploited youth, driven by love and outrage and absolutely committed to creating a safe, welcoming, and nurturing space for young people in the most desperate of circumstances,” said Reed Connell, Executive Director of Foster Care Youth Alliance.
Word of Nika's passing hit Facebook late last week, and young people who've been touched by her work have been pouring out their memories and prayers. One young woman posted to remember Nika as "making a home for all us struggling to come up in Oakland" and another as "the woman who made sure that you had a place to celebrate holidays if you had nowhere to go."
Donations in Nika St. Claire’s memory may be made to Alameda Family Services, 2325 Clement St., Alameda, CA 94501.