JessicaCarroll Blanchet House Counselor Photo by Julie Showers

Off the Street, Back to Blanchet

Jessica Carrolvolunteer counselor at Blanchet House

It was the early 90s in Portland. Jessica Carroll had a mohawk, a methamphetamine addiction, and most nights slept under the SW Clay St. overpass. 17-years-old, homeless and hungry she would often eat at the Blanchet House of Hospitality.

“It was a place I could always go to eat,” says Jessica. “And back then, there were very few people and places that offered food like they did.”

“It was a place I could always go to eat,” says Jessica. “And back then, there were very few people and places that offered food like they did.”

Full Circle

Things are very different for Jessica now. She no longer has a mohawk, or a drug addiction. She is a graduate of Portland State University’s McNair Scholar program, and now studies at Lewis & Clark College, completing her master’s degree in Professional Mental Health Counseling with a focus on addictions. She now volunteers to counsel men at Blanchet House facing her former struggles.

“Here I am providing service at a place where I received service,” she says.

Jessica is someone whose life has come full circle: she’s moved through roadblocks like mental illness, addiction, and trauma, and has come out on the other side.

In addition to volunteering and working toward her masters she has a full time job at the Mental Health Association of Oregon. She’s a project coordinator for Peerlink National Technical Assistance Center, which works to support tribal communities.

Jessica Carroll is volunteering her time as a counselor to help people facing addiction and homelessness.

Jessica Carroll is volunteering her time as a counselor to help people facing addiction and homelessness.

Office Hours

On Wednesdays, Jessica holds office hours at Blanchet House.

“I think being able to provide a space where someone can give voice to their experience without judgement is where the hope happens.”

Her clients are surprised when they hear where she’s come from.

“We can be judged by our worst moments and we carry those labels. Hopefully, above nothing else, I am just living proof that labels don’t have to define you,” she says.

Jessica believes that Blanchet residents carry great potential. “You can feel that there are great things happening here, and I’ve seen great progress.”

Interviewed by Ellena Rosenthal

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