“To offer food, shelter and aid to all those in need of a safe place to be nourished and restored. Assist the transformation of each life we touch with compassion and dignity.”
Blanchet (pronounced Blan-shay) House is a nonprofit social services organization located in downtown Portland. We offer many services to those in need but are best known for being the largest feeder of the poor in Oregon. We offer breakfast, lunch and dinner six days a week in our Founders Cafe.
Our nutritious meals are compassionately served to our guests by volunteers. Thanks to generous financial and food donors we are able to provide free meals to thousands of people every week. We believe we have a responsibility to offer assistance to those in need. We are not affiliated with any religious organizations though our beginnings are rooted in the Catholic community.
Our Residential Programs
We also operate two transitional shelter programs for men struggling with addictions, unemployment, mental health and/or family issues. In exchange for room, board and case management the men do volunteer work to aid the mission. The guests living in the Blanchet House program in downtown Portland work in the Founders Cafe preparing and serving food for the public. The men living in the Blanchet Farm program in Carlton, Oregon maintain the 62-acre farm and learn woodworking.
For the safety of all, residents of our programs must adhere to certain rules and regulations, and abstain from using drugs or alcohol while living with us.
The origins of Blanchet House begin at Columbia Prep high school where a group of students organized a social and service club, named after the first Catholic Archbishop of Oregon, Frances Norbert Blanchet.
Motivated by the teachings of the Catholic Workers Movement, the group set out to offer food and clothing to those in need. Soon after the club started, World War II brought a temporary halt to their activism.
At the end of WWII the original members partnered with a new wave of students to continue the Blanchet House mission. Armed with similar enthusiasm and beliefs, they began to find ways to help the needy in their community.
The young founders believed that we all have an obligation to extend hospitality to the homeless, exiled, hungry, and forsaken.
At the corner of NW 4th Avenue and NW Glisan they found their building and went to work preparing it for guests. The three-story building was currently be used as a brothel. The group rented the ground floor for their mission. Once they paid their first month’s rent of $35 they were ready to open their doors to the public. On February 11, 1952 they offered their first free hot meal. A simple offering of beans, bread, butter and coffee.
By 1958, the group had raised money to purchase the entire building outright for $25,000. The building would now be called the Blanchet House of Hospitality. 340 NW Glisan, which still stands, had a small basement for storage, a main floor which contained the public dining room, kitchen, manager’s office and bathrooms. The founders and their families cleaned up the upper floors to use as short-term housing units for men who, in exchange for room and board, would work in the kitchen and help serve.
Now 10 years after opening, the Blanchet House had increased the number of meals it could serve and the breadth of services it could provide thanks impart to the addition of full-time Exeuctive Director Al Riley who served for 38 years.
Blanchet House had became an important institution in the social fabric of Portland. Word on the street spread to those in need.
The founders learned that there was a need for a place outside of Portland where men struggling with addiction could escape the temptations of the city. They raised money to purchase a 40-acre prune farm in Yamhill County. Over the years, with additional land purchases and land gifts the farm has increased to 62 acres. They built dormitories, public space, barns for animals and a woodshop. There is now room for 22 men to live within a program designed to facilitate recovery from alcohol and drug addiction.
After nearly 10 years of planning and fundraising all the while serving those in need, the Blanchet House board wasable to build and open a new building. LEED platinum certified, the new and improved Blanchet House allowed room for our guests to wait online inside instead of the sidewalk. The capacity to feed and house those in need was greatly increased. We feel nearly 1,000 people a day and house up to 58 men.
Blanchet House is the largest feeder of the poor in Oregon. We have served over 16 million meals to those in need and transitioned 10,000 men back into society.
We respond to the needs of the most vulnerable in our community. Blanchet House is recognized as being an exceptional model for providing holistic pathways from homelessness to lasting self-sufficency.
We serve all people with dignity, compassion and without judgment.