PORTLAND - The Blanchet House in Portland’s Chinatown has been serving meals to the homeless for 60 years.
Putting the food on the table is the responsibility of two dozen men who are recovering from drug and alcohol addiction.
“I learned that if I’m not helping others, I’m not helping myself,” A resident known as “Bear” explained. In order to live in the Blanchet House, the men are required work six hours preparing and serving 600 to 900 meals each day from food donated by dozens of businesses. They’re allowed to stay up to six months as long as they stay clean.
“Being on the street I turned to alcohol for comfort, but here I don’t even think about it,” said Bear.
The Blanchet house was started six decades ago by a group of friends who met at University of Portland. Their inspiration came from a single lesson.
“Christ’s teaching, feed the hungry, and we thought we could take on this kind of program,” recalled 84-year-old Gene Feltz. Gene and his friends decided the meals would never come with a sermon.
“They need help and you feel at least I’m doing something and it keeps you going,” Feltz said.
In September, the Blanchet House will quadruple in size when it moves next door into a new $12 million-building.
The expansion was funded through private donations and the City of Portland but $1 million more needs to be raised.
Board member Laurie Kelley believes the new location will be a valuable addition to the neighborhood.
“We serve meals to many low income seniors in the neighborhood and the building will also have community meeting spaces,” Kelley said.
Bear said he and his coworkers are anxious for the completion of the larger Blanchet House so they’ll have more room to serve and prepare meals,
“It’s a Godsend especially for the community. We’ll finally be able to help more people all at once.”