Christian has a hard time describing himself, but for anyone who meets him, well, it’s just not the case. He’s hardworking, compassionate, intelligent, empathetic, and a deep thinker. He’s in a Master’s program working towards a degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Another Language and works at a local hotel. Christian is a resident of the 4th floor at the Blanchet House, a sanctuary he found only 8 months ago during a rough and depressive time in his life.
Christian moved to Portland from Chicago in January of 2017, during the snowstorm that had Portland’s infrastructure close to shutdown. In Chicago he was working dead-end jobs because he couldn’t find full-time work as a teacher. His hope was that he’d have more success in Oregon. A few months after his move, Christian was struggling to find work, grew depressed and began to self-medicate. His days filled with disillusionments about who he was and what he wanted in life.
In June 2017, as Portland’s sun began to peak its way through the clouds, Christian’s spirits faltered further, and he found himself unable to afford his housing. He was homeless and had nowhere to go. His relationships with friends and family were strained. He was having difficulties managing his anger. He was losing his sense of self-worth. Through Street Root’s book of resources, Christian found Blanchet House and called. He took his last 28 dollars and ordered a cab from NE Portland to the Blanchet House. He carried all his belongings on his back which ached not just from warehouse labor and sleepless nights, but from the weight of ‘the question mark’ – of not knowing where his life was going, of feeling a lack of control. Like all residents, Christian started working in the kitchen at Blanchet House, and after completing a seven month program graduated to the fourth floor, a place that he says is inclusive, accepting and full of mentors. A place where people don’t judge him about being African American, and where the men need each other like a “cog in a machine.” Christian explains that living and becoming a part of the Blanchet community has been one of the most pivotal and critical decisions of his life. He addresses his anger management issues through counseling and peer-support, and the community and structure of the programs within the house have sharpened his tools and gifts. Although he can feel growing pains – it’s worth it. He’s able to spend the money he’s making on something directly tied to his future – graduate school – and most importantly, he’s learned to forgive himself for his past, and he’s accepted himself – fully – again. Everyday Christian is on the path of self recovery, and working towards his dream: teaching and living as an international instructor and writer.
The Blanchet House provides Christian with space and time to heal and feel community again. He has a new passport, a repaired championship ring from his time as an outside linebacker at the University of Chicago, healthcare, employment, entrance and scholarships for his master’s degree, and the time to rebuild and repair relationships with loved ones and friends. Christian has found his spirit again within the walls of the Blanchet House and has found the feeling in his mind and body of what it means to be included, a leader, and in his own words, a self-described ‘peaceful warrior.’
Ellena is a freelance writer living in Portland, Oregon. Her work has appeared in many publications including Street Roots and Willamette Week.
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