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COVID-19 (CORONAVIRUS) UPDATES

Blanchet House Offers To-Go Meals To Portland's Hungry

A volunteer hands a sack meal to a guest at Blanchet House in Old Town. Volunteers served more than 1,200 to-go meals on March 18, 2020, because of coronavirus-related closures.

Published: March 22, 2020

Dear Blanchet House Community,

Because of your incredible generosity and the determination of our residents and volunteers, we overcame this week’s extraordinary challenges and succeeded in carrying out our mission beyond any reasonable expectation.

Collect and Share Food During Coronavirus Pandemic in Portland

We served nearly 10,000 to-go meals and have collected almost 50,000 pounds of food from shuttered restaurants and businesses, much of it perishable. Our efforts to rescue food for the benefit of our meal guests has cemented Blanchet House as an innovative leader in our city. We are now in a position to redirect some perishable food to other groups that desperately need support, and we are assessing our capacity to produce meals for delivery to those who cannot access food outside their homes. 

However, the news is not entirely good. We see the toll that living outdoors without access to shelter and food is having on the people we serve. They are tired and hungry, men and women with nowhere else to turn. We are feeding lots of people for the first time; many have been forced to travel to Blanchet House because we are one of only a few agencies serving meals daily. But they are grateful that we are here for them, with friendly greetings, nutritious food, and clothing they desperately need. 

Tomorrow brings yet another challenge as our state and city leaders will issue a “Stay at Home” order. I have no doubt that Blanchet House will qualify as an “essential service.” We are certainly essential to the people we feed.

We are doing everything we can to encourage that everyone stay six feet apart while continuing to meat the growing need for free meals.

Our mission is to feed people in need with compassion and dignity. Period. If we do not carry out our mission in times of great difficulty and risk then what is its true worth? For it is when the need is great and the circumstances severe that our work is most imperative. 

Volunteer: Serving During Difficult Time of Coronavirus Outbreak

I ask myself, what can we reasonably expect of our volunteers? Can we still call on them to serve during a public health directive to distance ourselves? I wish I had definitive answers to these questions. While we can promote safety and health in our facility, we cannot eliminate the risk of exposure to COVID-19. We cannot serve food from a distance of six feet. I say to our volunteers, for whom I have the deepest admiration and gratitude, you must choose to do what your heart and conscience compel you to do. If you stay home, I commend that choice and wish you and yours good health. There is still so much you can do to support our mission and the desperate people we serve. Please email me at volunteer@blanchethouse.org to find out how.  

If you choose to volunteer, please do so with full awareness of the risks involved. We will be here, feeding the hungry and desolate in our city. It is what we do.

Scott Kerman
Executive Director, Blanchet House of Hospitality

1,200 To-Go Meals Served on Second Day of New Service to Portland Community

Dear Blanchet House Community,

It’s hard to believe that within one day we were ordered by the governor to stop serving meals indoors and pivoted to a now robust and critical to-go meal service. The number of meals served is going up—more than 400 sacks handed out at lunch today. We served over 1200 meals yesterday! We are seeing A LOT of new faces. A LOT. I’m out of my office most of the day as I’m needed on the ground downstairs. I’m seeing and hearing a lot of folks knocking on the cafe windows looking for food. New faces with nowhere to go and nothing to eat.

There is no other organization serving as many meals as we are now. We offer 18 meal services a week. Portland Rescue Mission and Union Gospel Mission also are serving meals, and we are communicating daily with one another. We are so grateful that they are committed to staying open and serving alongside us. The need is that great.

The need we are witnessing is a chasm that is only getting deeper. Our volunteers are superheroes. Our residents are working so hard and keeping positive, proud to be playing a role in addressing this crisis. We have music playing while we take in the thousands of pounds of food being donated from closed restaurants and events. We’re doing our best to store, prepare and serve it. We’re sharing perishables with our peers.

The outpouring of support, service, and encouragement is overwhelming! So many of you are calling and emailing asking how you can help from the safety of your homes. We have many ways you can support our work and others.

  1. Send Us Orders of To-Go Containers and Cups. We cannot serve hot meals like rice with meat and vegetables without plastic or waxed paper to-go containers. These meals are also more economical for us moving forward.
  2. Collect Clothing. The nights are still very cold. We need warm adult-sized clothes to give to our meal guests.
  3. Donate. Meeting a critical need is not free. We rely on you and others to fund our essential services. SHARE a fundraiser with your friends on Facebook. NEW! Start a fundraiser on our website. 

Do you want to be boots on the ground during this unprecedented moment in history? You can volunteer only if you are 100% symptom-free and are not a member of a CDC designated at-risk group for COVID-19.

  • Arrive at 6 am, 11 am, or 4:30 pm.
  • Help pack to-go meals and run them to doors for handing out. Organize clothing in our clothing closet.
  • Email us at volunteer@blanchethouse.org.
  • NEW! PBOT, Prosper Portland and NW Natural have generously granted parking permits to volunteers so you can serve without worrying about receiving tickets! Park in the lot adjoining our building (NW 3rd & Flanders) or on the street alongside our building. Be sure to get a permit from the staff to put in your car window.

We are blessed to be in a position to help a community that is bearing the full weight of this pandemic, and we are grateful beyond measure for your support.

Scott Kerman

Executive Director, Blanchet House of Hospitality

 

Donate $100 for TO-GO meal containers

March 16, 2020 Dear Blanchet House Community, Just yesterday, I wrote to you about our commitment to serve meals during the COVID-19 crisis. Today, Governor Kate Brown ordered all eateries like our Founders Café to close starting tomorrow. The order also bans public gatherings of more than 25 people, with the CDC recommending gatherings of no more than ten. While I endorse this move, I am sad that we have to close to perhaps the last indoor refuge remaining for our meal guests. But this doesn’t mean we will stop serving meals! We will not abandon the hundreds of people who depend on us for food. Our kitchen staff will transition to preparing and packing to-go meals, which we will pass out at both entrances—NW 3rd Ave. and NW Glisan St.—so as to minimize lines and crowding. We will serve three times a day like we normally do; our hope is to provide as many hot meals as we can each day. We need your help to continue feeding people by doing the following: 1. Volunteer. Help pack to-go meals and run them to doors for handing out. Volunteers age 60 and over are still strongly encouraged to stay home, as well as any volunteers exhibiting any signs of illness. Email us at volunteer@blanchethouse.org if you want to help. 2. Purchase To-Go Containers and Forks. Containers will costs us approximately $33 per meal. Consider funding an entire day’s worth of containers for $100. 3. Donate To-Go Food. Send via Amazon or drop off single-serving non-perishable food items or produce that we can use to supplement our to-go meals to help our meal guests stretch their food. 4. Collect Clothing. The nights are still very cold. We need warm adult-sized clothes to give to our meal guests. Shop our Amazon wish list. We also need volunteers to sort and organize clothing! Dorothy Day, the woman who inspired our mission said, “Charity is a recognition of a person’s dignity and the personal response that this dignity should inspire.” Each of us face challenging days filled with uncertainty and dizzying change. Our staff and volunteers will continue to meet these challenges, inspired by the dignity of the people we serve. These are days we will remember. Days filled with grace and charity. Scott Kerman Executive Director, Blanchet House of Hospitality
Cafe Closure: To-Go Meal Program Start

Published: March 16, 2020

Dear Blanchet House Community,

Just yesterday, I wrote to you about our commitment to serve meals during the COVID-19 crisis. Today, Governor Kate Brown ordered all eateries like our Founders Café to close starting tomorrow. The order also bans public gatherings of more than 25 people, with the CDC recommending gatherings of no more than ten. While I endorse this move, I am sad that we have to close to perhaps the last indoor refuge remaining for our meal guests.

But this doesn’t mean we will stop serving meals! We will not abandon the hundreds of people who depend on us for food.

Our kitchen staff will transition to preparing and packing to-go meals, which we will pass out at both entrances—NW 3rd Ave. and NW Glisan St.—so as to minimize lines and crowding. We will serve three times a day like we normally do; our hope is to provide as many hot meals as we can each day.

We need your help to continue feeding people by doing the following:

1.     Volunteer. Help pack to-go meals and run them to doors for handing out. Volunteers age 60 and over are still strongly encouraged to stay home, as well as any volunteers exhibiting any signs of illness. Email us at volunteer@blanchethouse.org if you want to help.

2.     Purchase To-Go Containers and Forks. Containers will costs us approximately $33 per meal. Consider funding an entire day’s worth of containers for $100.

3.     Donate To-Go Food. Send via Amazon or drop off single-serving non-perishable food items or produce that we can use to supplement our to-go meals to help our meal guests stretch their food.

4.    Collect Clothing. The nights are still very cold. We need warm adult-sized clothes to give to our meal guests. Shop our Amazon wish list. We also need volunteers to sort and organize clothing!

Dorothy Day, the woman who inspired our mission said, “Charity is a recognition of a person’s dignity and the personal response that this dignity should inspire.”

Each of us face challenging days filled with uncertainty and dizzying change. Our staff and volunteers will  continue to meet these challenges, inspired by the dignity of the people we serve.

These are days we will remember. Days filled with grace and charity.

Scott Kerman
Executive Director, Blanchet House of Hospitality

COVID-19 UPDATE: Changes to Blanchet House Meal Services

Published: March 15, 2020

Dear Blanchet House Community,

First, let me say that I am so grateful for and admire your continued support during this extraordinarily difficult time. As businesses and services close because of recommendations to social distance, the need for our services will increase. The number of people experiencing housing and food insecurity will also likely increase as the economic toll of our public health crisis deepens. The staff of Blanchet House believes it is our duty to continue serving the hundreds of people who depend on us for their daily meals.

Faced with this growing health crisis, I continually ask myself, “If not Blanchet House, then who?”

We recognize that the need for Blanchet House’s meal service is at odds with important recommendations for social distancing and isolation. This conflict is on my mind constantly. Yes, we want to serve our guests safely and responsibly, but at the same time we are equally committed to promoting the health of our volunteers, residents, and staff. The truth is we cannot continue without the selfless help of others, but we also cannot ask our volunteers to take unnecessary risks.

In response to rapidly changing circumstances, we are instituting the following policies and protocols:

  1. Volunteers age 60 and over are STRONGLY ENCOURAGED to stay home and not volunteer. We will not bar you from entering, but we acknowledge the unique risks facing our older volunteers, and we want you to be safe.
  2. Volunteers age 17 and younger may no longer serve plates or water or bus tables. They can plate food on the line or sort items in the clothing closet for distribution.
  3. We are reducing the capacity of our cafe by limiting seating to 30 guests at a time. This will allow us to seat only two meal guests per table. We have also increased spacing among the tables. We know this is a radical change in the way we serve because we will now require each group of 30 diners to finish their plates and exit so we can seat the next group of 30. We believe it is an important change that will allow us to continue serving people inside the Cafe.
  4. We will thoroughly wipe down all surfaces between groups with bleach.
  5. We will extend the meal service from 60 minutes to 90 minutes to accommodate for these changes. Our hope is that these changes will allow us to continue safely feeding all in need of a meal. When we can no longer serve inside the Cafe, we will serve brown-bag meals out the front door.

 

How can you help?

  • Stay home if you exhibit any signs of illness or do not feel safe serving in a large group. If you can volunteer safely, we welcome your help. Email us at volunteer@blanchethouse.org if you want to help or need to cancel. 
  • Send or drop off food items for “to-go” meals so we are prepared. 
  • Collect and drop off clothing that we can hand out to our meal guests. Shop our Amazon wish list. 
  • We obviously did not budget for this crisis, and changes in how we serve bring new and unexpected costs. We expect our food donations, which are essential to our service, to significantly diminish as our community of food donors experience their own reduction in services and inventory. www.BlanchetHouse.org/Donate

 

In closing, I want you to know that throughout each day I reassess the best approach to carry out our mission while keeping everyone serving and eating safe. I am keenly aware of our role in our community to help its most vulnerable members, and I am extremely proud of our staff, residents and volunteers who are rising to the challenges each day brings.

With my profound respect and gratitude,

Scott Kerman

Executive Director, Blanchet House of Hospitality

VolunteerBlanchetHousePortlandHomeless

Published: March 12, 2020

How You Can Help Blanchet House’s Homeless Guests During the COVID-19 (coronavirus) Outbreak

Like so many in our community, we are closely following developments regarding COVID-19 (coronavirus) and actively revising our meal program procedures to promote the health of our guests and volunteers. Our cafe is currently open for all meals because it’s our mission to “offer food, shelter and aid to all those in need of a safe place to be nourished and restored.”

However, we are preparing for the possibility of the COVID-19 outbreak limiting our ability to serve meals in the usual way. In the extraordinary event that we need to close our cafe, we will begin assembling and handing out sack meals at least once a day. We are committed to doing our utmost to meet the needs of our guests. We will take our cues from the Multnomah County Health Department and the Joint Office of Homeless Services.

To ensure that we are able to carry out our mission we need your help in the following ways.

1. Volunteer

Some volunteers and school groups may need to cancel their shifts, so we are recruiting for an“on-call” list. If you would like to be included, contact us at info@blanchethouse.org. Let us know which days and meals work best for you. Please fill out a volunteer profile at www.BlanchetHouse.org/Volunteer.

2. Food & Clothing 

We are stocking up on brown bags, bread, peanut butter, fruit with a long shelf life and single-serving wrapped foods that are easy to open and consume. You can mail the following items or drop them off at 310 NW Glisan, Portland, OR, 97209. You can also donate or purchase warm clothing in adult sizes from our Amazon wish list here http://a.co/hp4V3Eg.

  • Granola or protein bars
  • Single serving wrapped foods like chips, crackers, snack mix, fruit snacks or raisins
  • Hand wipes (60% alcohol if possible)
  • Apples or oranges
  • Juice boxes

 

3. Donate 

Preparations for coronavirus are an unexpected and expensive addition to our annual budget. A $20 donation will pay for four sack lunches. $100 will pay for a 20 sack lunches.

Thank you! Know that your support helps so many in our community!

Published: March 5, 2020

Dear Blanchet House Community,

We want to assure you that Blanchet House staff is taking all precautions recommended by the CDC and Multnomah County Health Department to prepare for and prevent COVID-19 virus from spreading amongst our residents, volunteers and guests. Our leadership is in regular contact with county and state health officials and fellow social service agencies to help promote a coordinated response and adjust services as this situation evolves.

Please be aware of the following protocols that have been implemented at Blanchet House. 

  • Volunteers and staff must stay home when sick. Please call or email us if you cannot make your shift.
  • We have enacted cleaning protocols that require staff to disinfect all surfaces, doorknobs and water faucet handles multiple times per day with CDC recommended sanitizers and procedures in order to eradicate germs.
  • We are emphasizing and supervising proper handwashing techniques with residents and volunteers as well as other recommended disease prevention procedures to prevent contagion. We have purchased additional hand sanitizers available to meal guests, residents, and volunteers.
  • Residents exhibiting signs of illness are quarantined in their rooms and provided with appropriate health care.
  • Meal guests are being evaluated for signs of illness and appropriate measures are taken to promote the community’s wellness while meeting the needs of affected guests. We have purchased an additional supply of to-go containers so that guests can take food with them if they are not permitted to eat in the Cafe. 
     

Our priority is to promote the health and wellbeing of everyone in our community. We are also extremely mindful of the essential services we provide our guests who rely on Blanchet House for their daily meals. We are actively developing contingency plans with other social service organizations to ensure that our guests in need of meals can still receive them should our operations be affected by the virus.

Thank you for your continued support.

Scott Kerman
Executive Director

Hand Sanitizer Blanchet House Portland Coronavirus Homeless

Hand Sanitizer Drive!

Our homeless meal guests are unable to wash their hands at will. Please drop off or mail individual use, small pump or to-go wipes (60% alcohol or more) to Blanchet House at 310 NW Glisan. We ideally need individual sizes to hand out to our meal guests.

You can also donate to help offset the cost to our organization.

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