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. Before showing up at the house, I was not aware of the unique way the program directly involves people from the streets – some of them former meal guests from Blanchet House itself. I didn’t know the way in which the program not only serves hundreds of meals to homeless folks everyday, but also is as a major stepping stone for those who are brought in to the program to live and work.
The relationship between the meal guests and the people living and working in the house seems very safe and warm; an environment build on empathy and community. I imagine this is in large part due to the unique structure of the program. If the house was solely staffed by people who did not have personal experience with homelessness, the atmosphere would probably be quite different.
On my end, I have also experienced nothing but kindness, appreciation, and respect from everyone here. During my time at Blanchet House there was only a brief moment of discomfort. But it was resolved elegantly and quickly by the team-leader, Jay. A person was asked to leave because they were suddenly shouting loudly. It was pretty clear to me that this behaviour stemmed from mental illness rather than actual aggression or anything like that. Given how mental health and homelessness is at times intertwined, a brief episode like that is probably to be expected every now and then.
Personally, it was wonderful to get a chance to get to know some of the people who are involved in the program. Aside from the help volunteering provides, volunteering, for me, also keeps nurturing a sense of empathy with parts of society I would otherwise have little contact with. It has been very meaningful for me to get a chance to get to know people here.”