Every day, we Portlanders face a growing dilemma as we walk or drive through town. People who are homeless ask for support.

Pope Francis has made it clear that we are not to ignore these brothers and sisters in need. They are other Christs. At the same time, they are human beings, and common sense tells us that our cash gifts might be used for alcohol or drugs. It hurts to participate in someone’s self-destruction.

Blanchet House, a Catholic ministry in operation since the 1950s, has given us a better option. At this web link —BlanchetHouse.org/YoureInvited— it’s possible to download printable invitations to hand out on street corners and on-ramps. The invitations offer a warm welcome, plus notice of the address and serving times at Blanchet House, which offers free meals three times a day, six days a week. 

It’s not only people who are homeless who need food. Blanchet House encourages us to hand invitations to struggling college students, low-income families and neighbors between paychecks. At Blanchet House, there are no questions asked.

The little red invitations do three important things.

First, they help hungry people find food. While hunger rates in Oregon are improving, we are still worse than the national average and have not yet returned to pre-recession levels, according to an Oregon Food Bank study.

Second, those who take up the invitation find not only food but a supportive community at Blanchet House. Programs offer housing, job help and addiction treatment. The little slip of paper could be a life-changer.

Third, the card allows us to interact with fellow human beings. Yes, some will be disappointed at getting the invitation instead of a fiver. But many more will be grateful for being noticed at all and having a pretext for conversation.