‘We need help’: Feeding the needy in the social distancing era

Coronavirus

The Blanchet House in Northwest Portland is struggling to enforce state-mandated orders

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — It’s not uncommon to see a line of people wrapped around the Blanchet House in Northwest Portland.

The nonprofit organization is currently serving about 1,500 to-go meals in brown bags to hundreds of people in need. The demand has dramatically spiked in just the last few days.

But so many people needing help means resources are stretching thin and the organization needs help.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has ordered people to keep a distance of at least six feet—but the Blanchet House is at a loss for how to manage the line. Untrained volunteers aren’t equipped to maintain social distancing guidelines.

“We want people to know that we understand the issue, we understand the concern and we share it,” said Blanchet House Executive Director Scott Kerman. “But if we have to choose between feeding people or not feeding people under the circumstances, we are going to choose feeding people every time.”

Volunteers bag free meals for people in need at the Blanchet House in Northwest Portland, March 24, 2020. (KOIN)

The organization needs help from local officials to manage social spacing.

“But we are worried about the folks queuing up outside but we are going to need assistance from the city and the county and other professionals if we are going to do something about their congregating too close to each other.”

Resources are running low as demand for more meals skyrockets.

“I just learned we have 750 paper lunch sacks in stock. That’s not going to last long,” Kerman said. “We need help, we need help if we are going to meet those standards—that’s just beyond our means.”

From meals to housing, officials are working to keep the homeless apart. Some people already in shelters have been moved to the Oregon Convention Center and Charles Jordan Center to create social distancing.

On Tuesday, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said they hope to soon open the East Portland Community Center to create even more distancing for the homeless.

Visit BlanchetHouse.org to get involved

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