As I write this, we are five months into serving a community that has been devastated by the COVID-19 crisis. Most of our meal guests have had no reprieve from living outdoors in squalor and no sign that their situations will change any time soon.
The COVID-19 crisis, and the economic strain accompanying it, has increased stress on our guests tremendously, especially for those experiencing mental illness or addiction. At Blanchet House, we have witnessed the toll on their wellbeing over these five months. We see the effect living in deprived conditions has had on the guests we knew from before the pandemic. And we see the confusion, anxiety, and even anger among the many new faces who come to us for food each day.
Five months into this crisis, we see greater desperation and impatience in line, more trash and human waste around our building, and even a cracked window caused by a guest so traumatized that they repeatedly smashed their head against it. This tension brings added emotional and financial cost to our services. Our service during this crisis is not easy; the challenges are significant.
Yet, we are steadfast in our commitment to provide daily meals, meet other needs as we can, and offer compassion and hope.
Our service during this time is not easy and the challenges are significant but it is critical.
I am mindful of what Pope Francis recently said that these times call on us to commit “to defending the inherent dignity of every person.” Pope Francis continued, “While we work for the cure of a virus that affects everyone without distinction, faith urges us to work seriously and act to fight indifference in the face of violations of human dignity.”
Blanchet House is actively fighting the indifference too often felt by the people we serve.
Each cup of coffee, each sack lunch, each hot meal, each pair of socks communicates to our guests that we care about them.
Every volunteer who kindly looks our guests in the eye, the artwork, and words of support that decorate sack lunches, and each donated re-usable water bottle affirms the human dignity of our houseless and food insecure guests. These sincere acts of kindness let our guests know that they are not alone and that our community has not forsaken them.
The support of the Blanchet House community over these five months has been extraordinary and inspiring. You have given so much already, but I must be unabashed in asking even more of you. We are in this service for the duration, sustained beyond measure by your support, your inspirational words, and your gifts.
Your support keeps us going. More importantly, it provides hope and dignity to the people we serve.
By Scott Kerman, Executive Director