A volunteer hands a woman a free meal at Blanchet House in Portland during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A Year into the Pandemic, We Are Stronger Than Ever

By Scott Kerman, Executive Director

Today marks a bittersweet anniversary for Blanchet House. It was one year ago that we served our last meal indoors and quickly pivoted to to-go meal services.

We had so many questions back then. How would the shutdown affect the people we serve? Would they get sick with COVID? Would we? Will we have enough volunteers to stay open? Where will the food come from if food-service businesses are closed? It was a time of great uncertainty, anxiety, and fear.

Little did we know of the humanitarian crisis that would soon visit our doorstep. Blanchet House was one of only a few agencies able to remain open and serve daily meals. Hundreds of houseless and food insecure guests came to our Old Town location, many experiencing the need for free meals for the first time in their lives. Their need for clean clothing and other support was so severe that we quickly expanded our services beyond meals.

To our amazement, new and long-time volunteers showed up! Some even came to serve multiple times a day in order to help keep our doors open to those in need. Chefs from Portland’s finest restaurants lent a hand too. Thanks to them, we were swiftly and efficiently serving 2,000 meals a day!

GIVE SOMEONE THE GIFT OF A HOT BREAKFAST FOR $5

The outpouring of donated food and clothing has been inspiring to witness and we have become a resource for other organizations. We created partnerships with Catholic Charities, the Joint Office of Homeless Services, and the City of Portland to provide meals and clothing to people living further away from Blanchet House including COVID-19 emergency camps operated by the City of Portland. Your support has provided more than 50,000 meals to people outside of Blanchet House!

I wrote at the beginning of this post that today is a bittersweet anniversary. Looking back at our year of service, there is a lot to be proud of, but it’s important to remember that our community has endured incredible hardship and devastation. We grieve the loss of friends and loved ones who have died from COVID-19.

The desperate need for our services continues unabated, and we believe the situation may worsen for people we serve who may not benefit from the economic recovery. More worrisome is the horrible toll this had taken on the mental health and addiction challenges experienced by our guests and shelter residents. Yet, we have hope! The compassion and support you have shown this past year allow our services to reach more people.

Together, we can continue to alleviate suffering and provide dignity to those who come to Blanchet House for relief.

UPDATED: COVID-19 SAFETY POLICIES

Thank you to the following organizations that helped keep Blanchet House supplied with food: Oregon Food Bank, Trader Joe’s, Bob’s Red Mill, Farmers Ending Hunger, Pacific Coast Fruit Co., Columbia Empire Meat, Interstate Meat Co., Helen Bernhard Bakery, Bowery Bagels, Moda Center/Portland Trailblazers, and all of the restaurants that donated food and packaging to us when they closed, perhaps sadly even for good.

Read More Stories From 2020

Share A Blanchet Memory!

Help us celebrate Blanchet House’s 70th anniversary and preserve its history by sharing a memory. Our history lives in every person who has volunteered, donated, worked, or been a guest of Blanchet House and Farm. All of the great memories submitted will be available to read on our oral history blog.

Share Your Memory

Wear Your Support!

We have a limited run of t-shirts illustrated by Portland artist Ryan Bubnis available for purchase on our website. Each shirt–choose from blue or green–was screen printed by formerly homeless youth at New Avenues for Youth Ink. Shirts sell for $20 and all proceeds go to Blanchet House’s meal and shelter services. You can pick up your shirt at Blanchet House (M-Sat) or pay $8 for US shipping.

Buy a T-shirt

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Fresh Food Rescued from Local Businesses

About Blanchet House

Inside Look at Portland’s Outdoor Homeless Shelters

Our History: Started in 1952 by a Group of Friends

Some of the founders of Blanchet House of Hospitality in the old kitchen circa 2011.

Some of the founders of Blanchet House of Hospitality in the old kitchen circa 2011.

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