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We need continued optimism as we work to solve homelessness in Oregon. 

By Scott Kerman

I’m often asked if I’m optimistic about fixing the homelessness crisis in our community.

I am.

Blanchet House offers a lot of essential services to our guests, but one that is often overlooked is HOPE. It’s hard to collect data on hope but it’s critical to everyone’s well-being.

Homeless family eat in soup kitchen optimism solves homelessness

A father and his son who are temporarily sheltered enjoy lunch in Blanchet House’s cafe.

The people we serve usually seek our assistance during a low point in their lives. They often don’t have a lot to be hopeful about. It’s something they need to regain.

Optimism is Needed to Solve Homelessness

More than food and housing, we offer compassion, human dignity, and community. These critical ingredients of our services help to restore hope and life. This exists because we prioritize our staff and guests’ experience. We invest in hope.

So, I choose to be hopeful. I know that we can help people who are suffering make real progress in bettering their living conditions and circumstances.

Old Town is making progress too. Thanks to the efforts of the Old Town Community Association, projects are underway to restore and revive the previously neglected historic district.

But for the people Blanchet House serves–unsheltered persons who are chronically homeless, impoverished folks who live in low-income apartments, or people staying in temporary shelters–life remains hard. P2P meth (aka super meth) and fentanyl use is a significant challenge and threat to people’s health and safety. Pair with that the awful weather and people have few options for staying warm and dry.

Yet, our service programs have never been stronger. So far this year, we’ve provided more free meals than at any time since we resumed indoor dining in May 2022. Our team also handed out tons of clean clothing and new shoes. We are able to offer care for health issues in one of our monthly free clinics and even serve homeless pets.

peer support optimism solve homelessness

A Peer Support Specialist with the Old Town InReach Program visits a houseless diner in Blanchet House’s free cafe.

We brought together a peer support team called the Old Town InReach Program (OTIP). These peers with lived experience of homelessness, addiction, and mental health are making a real difference in people’s lives. They get people in detox, shelters, and are a daily lifeline to hope. We just received word from Multnomah County that we can now add a half-time housing coordinator to OTIP. This fills me with optimism because dedicated staff will now provide the one-on-one time and expertise that is sorely lacking in our community. This new staff will help people access shelters or housing much more quickly, saving lives from being lost on the streets.

Optimism For the Future

I also choose to be optimistic about Governor Tina Kotek and Multnomah County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson’s commitment to a plan to take urgent action and effect real solutions. But we all need to be patient because the challenges are substantial and highly complex. It will take time, and progress won’t always be visible or even very linear.

sack lunch don't quit Optimism solve homelessness

Volunteers wrote messages of hope on the bags of sack lunches.

Yes, there’s a lot of uncertainty now, but I won’t be pessimistic about it. Blanchet House prides itself on offering hope. We must model hope by being optimistic about our ability to solve problems. To let people, know that they matter.

And if you feel like you matter, then you won’t give up hope.

Let’s commit to strengthening our community and joining with one another to be there for others who need our support. The road forward won’t be easy, and there will be obstacles and low moments on the way. But we aren’t called to serve when it’s easy. We’re called to serve when it’s hard.

But where there’s hope, the challenges feel lighter.

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