PORTLAND - The long line of homeless people waiting for food near the Steel Bridge is a thing of the past.
A new building has enough space to accommodate the hundreds who wait for meals each day. It’s called the Blanchet House – a nonprofit started by University of Portland students 60 years ago.
“We were in a building on Northwest Glisan that is a hundred years old and it was falling down around us,” explained Board member Dan Petrusich.
The new facility is just across the street from the old location. The city of Portland supported the expansion with a grant and by donating the land. Supporters raised $13 million to cover costs.
“A priority for us was to have an area where people could wait comfortably inside for their next meal,” remembered Petrusich.
The meals are prepared by formerly homeless men who are given a chance to turn their lives around.
“This place has given me shelter, friends, food and accountability. I have to stay clean and sober because there’s no tolerance for that here,” said Dennis.
The residents work eight hours, six days a week preparing meals for the homeless.
“There is no handout here. The residents have a sense of pride because in a way they feel like they own the place,” said Petrusich.
Since the new facility opened in the Fall, the number of meals served has increased 5 per cent with 25,500 served each month. There is also more space for live in residents like Dennis who can stay up to four months and are regularly tested for drugs and alcohol.
“There are good days and bad days but I’m not going anywhere,” he added, “ I could never repay what this place has given me.”