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Sept. 24, 2022

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Open House Ministries breaks ground on Vancouver apartment building for families transitioning out of homelessness

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:
7 Photos
The ceremony was held inside Open House Ministries' multi-purpose gym due to the heat. After speakers concluded, however, donors and Open House Ministries' leadership carried shovels over to the empty plot to break the ground.
The ceremony was held inside Open House Ministries' multi-purpose gym due to the heat. After speakers concluded, however, donors and Open House Ministries' leadership carried shovels over to the empty plot to break the ground. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Open House Ministries broke ground Monday afternoon on a 30-unit apartment building at West 12th and Jefferson streets for people transitioning from homelessness.

The apartment building — to be named the Dollie and Ed Lynch West building — will be for people graduating from Open House Ministries’ family shelter, making it an extension of the Open House Ministries program.

The ceremony featured Open House Ministries’ Board President Dick James, Chaplain Jon Nichols and Executive Director Renee Stevens, as well as state Rep. Paul Harris, R-Vancouver, and City Councilor Bart Hansen.

The ceremony was held inside Open House Ministries’ multi-purpose gym due to the heat. After speakers concluded, however, donors and Open House Ministries’ leadership carried shovels over to the empty plot to ceremonially break the ground.

“Our challenge is figuring out how to enlarge our program in such a way that keeps pace with the growth of the homeless population we serve,” said Michael Lynch, honorary co-chair for Project Cornerstone, the capital campaign behind the building. “Our new Open House Ministries West building will allow us to more than double the number of people we serve with only a small increase in operational costs. And that’s what I call a miracle, and part of what makes this campaign so wonderful.”

Open House Ministries currently serves 34 families who stay at the organization’s family shelter on a week-to-week basis.

The new building will be adjacent to the faith-based service provider’s main property. Families who graduate from Open House’s program and are employed will be able move into one of the apartments. Rent will be determined based on a family’s income. The building will contain a mix of studios, one-bedroom, two-bedroom and three-bedroom apartments, and will have 38 parking spots. Amenities will include washers and dryers in each apartment and tenant storage units in the basement.

The project is expected to be completed in November 2023, with the first residents expected to arrive in early 2024.

The apartments will provide a step toward independence. Families living in the apartments will work and pay rent but still consult with an Open House case manager until they are able to find another home.

Families will be able to live in the apartments for as long as necessary, according to Stevens.

“Every family that comes to Open House Ministries has a unique situation,” she said. “We’re not trying to put a time limit on any of these folks yet. Some families will be able to come and stay two years and be able to move on to sustainable housing. Other families may take a little bit longer, some a little bit less. So we’re not trying to restrict the timeline just yet.”

The building will also include ground-floor retail space for Secondhand Solutions Thrift Store and Wheel Deals Bicycle Shop. Both stores provide vocational training for Open House Ministries residents and add significant income for operations, but need to be relocated.

In March 2024, the city is scheduled to demolish the Open House Ministries Annex building as part of an $11 million project to align West Jefferson Street and Kauffman Avenue to create a freight corridor. Open House Ministries hopes to have both stores relocated before road construction begins.

The road project is one reason Open House Ministries began pursuing the project. Acquiring the empty lot adjacent to the current shelter sealed the deal, according to Lynch. Its location means families will have access to resources such as case management, education programs and weekly chapel.

Over the past two years, Open House Ministries has been raising dollars for the project through its Project Cornerstone capital campaign, which has so far raised 80 percent of its $12 million goal.

To learn more about the project and to donate, visit www.ohmwest.org.

“I’ve traveled across the country visiting homeless shelters and talking to housing experts, and I’ve seen with my own eyes that Open House Ministries is leading the way by offering long-term solutions for people who are homeless that will transform their families for generations,” Lynch said.

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