Since 1952, thousands of compassionate individuals have dedicated their time and energy to helping others at Blanchet House. Here are a few of their stories.
Who: Christian G.
Occupation: Blanchet House resident, dishwasher and trained chef
“You can end up in a bad position pretty fast.
“I was living in a tent in Gresham. Sometimes, when I was hungry, I stole food from stores. I got caught a few times.
One time a cop had me in handcuffs and asked me why I was stealing. I had no record so he was confused. I said I was hungry. He said, ‘Why don’t you go to Blanchet House?” I had never heard of it. So, I went to eat there and found out that they have housing programs too. I’ve been living here for 8 months. After working for three months in the Blanchet kitchen I was able to get a full-time job washing dishes at a restaurant.”
Who: Emily Reiling
From: Pittsburgh, PA
Occupation: Volunteer Coordinator (JVC Northwest)
Until a month ago, I had never been to the Northwest. It called to me as a distant concept—the mountains and coast, the coffee culture and music scene, the quirkiness and earthiness (even before I knew I was moving to Portland, my ideas of the region were decidedly Portland-centric). It offered such a distinct contrast to the places I have called home for the past 22 years, a change of pace and mind.
By the time senior year of college rolled around, I had long decided that I wanted to commit my first postgraduate year to service. Working with marginalized populations suffering from systemic injustices and inequities could have taken many different forms in different places, but for me it meant serving people experiencing hunger and homelessness. It meant remaining in the United States with care to neither impose upon nor burden a community I intended to aid. It meant living out values of solidarity with the populations I serve in ways that extend beyond work hours.
Who: Jessica Carroll
From: Portland, OR
Occupation: Project Coordinator at MHAO
“Here I am providing service at a place where I received service.”
It was the early 90s in Portland. Jessica 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.”
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.
Read more here
Who: Dorothy Day
From: New York City
Occupation: Journalist, Catholic Activist
“We want to do away with poverty and discrimination.”
Dorothy Day is one of the architects of Houses of Hospitality and the Catholic Worker movement. She practiced and preached radical charity. Day came to Portland in 1963 to visit her “brain child” Blanchet House of Hospitality to meet the young founders she inspired.
A house of hospitality provides food, shelter and clothing to those who need it. Originally part of the Catholic Worker Movement, houses of hospitality have been run by other organizations, including organizations that are not Catholic or Christian. Founded on principals of Christian anarchism, the houses provide hospitality without charge and without requiring religious practice or attendance at services.[
In explaining her decision to live among and serve the poor, Day said, “By fighting for better conditions…for the rights of workers, the poor, the destitute…we can, to a certain extent, change the world; we can work for the oasis, the little cell of joy and peace in a harried world. We can throw our pebble in the pond and be confident that its ever-widening circle will reach around the world.”
Who: Janus Hoem
From: Copenhagen, Denmark
Occupation: Art Critic/Sculptor
“I’m visiting from Copenhagen because I met a beautiful woman from Portland.
I actually didn’t have an intention to volunteer at Blanchet House. But after having stayed in Portland for a while and witnessing the homelessness situation downtown, I felt like volunteering would be a good way to put to use some extra time I had on my hands.
Coming here, I actually didn’t have an intention to volunteer at Blanchet House. But after having stayed in Portland for a while and witnessing the homelessness situation downtown, I felt like volunteering would be a good way to put to use some extra time I had on my hands.
I think Blanchet House is a really extraordinary place. The program directly involves people from the streets – some of them former meal guests from Blanchet House itself. It is a major stepping stone for those who are brought in to the program to live and work.