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The healing power of work transformed John Andersson’s life and helped him gain sobriety after a stint of homelessness and hopelessness. Blanchet House’s unique work-based program helps the homeless in recovery by offering them renewed purpose and self-confidence.

By Julie Showers

John Andersson, a resident at Blanchet House, shared his remarkable journey of transformation. Only a year ago, he was trapped in a downward spiral of addiction and despair. He had reached a breaking point in his life, feeling hopeless and believing he wouldn’t survive another 10 years. John struggled with alcoholism, engaging in binge drinking and isolating himself from meaningful relationships.

The Healing Power of Dishwashing

The turning point for John came when he left detox for a stay at Blanchet House and began working in the kitchen that provides meals for people experiencing hunger, poverty, and homelessness. He first took on kitchen prep work for a couple of days before discovering his love for dishwashing. The seemingly simple task became a source of joy and fulfillment for him. John found solace in the routine and took pride in keeping everything clean and organized. It was a revelation that he could contribute and excel in a productive environment.

“Finding my place in the kitchen was a turning point for me,” John says. “I realized that even in the simplest tasks, I could make a difference. It gave me a sense of purpose and showed me that I could rebuild my life.”

John Andersson on balcony Blanchet House

John Andersson stands on the balcony at Blanchet House in Old Town Portland.

The act of contributing to meal services, and working to feed others who were once in his position, had a profound impact on his well-being. He acknowledges the spiritual dimension of work, recognizing that it goes beyond the mechanical aspects and creates a sense of purpose and connection. The dish pit at Blanchet House became a safe space where he felt supported, challenged, and appreciated.

A Lifeline to Healing

Reflecting on his past, John shared that more conventional recovery programs fell short of providing the unique support he needed. He struggled for years to maintain stability and sobriety. The isolation, lack of meaningful contact, and absence of purpose perpetuated his self-destructive patterns. However, Blanchet House was different, it offered him a lifeline.

“Blanchet House saved my life,” John says. “I was at the lowest point in my life when I walked through the doors. They offered me a lifeline and a chance to rebuild my life.”

Blanchet House not only provides nutritious meals but also fosters a sense of community. A sense of belonging had been missing in John’s life. At Blanchet House, he found comfort in knowing that others he worked alongside had gone through similar struggles. Sharing meals together created a friendly and inclusive atmosphere where John could engage and foster meaningful connections.

John Andersson a Pacific Coast Fruit truck performs meaningful work

John Andersson drives for Pacific Coast Fruit, a second-chance employer.

A Second Chance Employer

After 90 days of working in the dish pit, John applied for a job at Pacific Coast Fruit (PCF) as a driver. He needed to regain his commercial driving license and PCF wanted to support him in this goal. With a renewed sense of purpose, he embraced his new job and felt supported and challenged in a positive way.

“I’m really hard on myself and I want to do a good job. I was telling my manager Andrew that I was making these mistakes, and he goes, ‘John, you’re doing fine. I wish I had five more of you,'” John recalls. “They’re a real second chance.”

His experience is a testament to the power of work in rebuilding self-esteem and providing a path to a better future.

“The community at Blanchet House has become my family,” John says. “We share meals, stories, and support. It makes me feel like I belong, like I’m not alone in this journey.”

Blanchet House continues to be a beacon of hope for individuals like John, offering them a chance at redemption and a path to stability. By providing a safe environment to work, nutritious meals, and access to supportive communities, it’s making a lasting difference in the lives of formerly homeless individuals.

Through its holistic approach, the organization is empowering individuals to rebuild their lives, find purpose, and achieve a brighter future.

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