Every great mission starts with a great story
In 1985, a small group of individuals met for Bible study at Esther Short Park in Vancouver, Washington. The group became increasingly aware of the homeless population in and around the park and was especially touched by the number of mothers they met who slept in cars with their children. When offering help, the most frequent requests the group received was for diapers and food.
They soon began providing food and clothing to those they met and set out to explore the deeper needs of the homeless population. According to Joanne Kendall, one of Open House Ministries’ founders, many of the people they spoke to said if they could just settle down long enough warm, fed and clothed, they could get their thoughts together and work on a plan to solve their homelessness.
Open House Ministries was incorporated in 1986. The original shelter building opened its doors in a large, leased boarding house that stood on what is now our parking lot. The boarding house provided 10 rooms for up to 25 people.
During the first few years, much was learned about the complex needs of people in homeless situations. Eventually, the shelter evolved to include case management of residents, professional counseling, a day care, work development, transitional support and a large array of community networks geared toward meeting needs common among homeless populations.
In 1996, construction was completed on a new 28,000-square-foot building to serve as a shelter and house more people in need, thanks to the generous monetary, material and labor contributions of our community. It took over two years to build the new shelter, but when the doors opened, the building was and remains mortgage free.
Today, with continued support from a generous community, 33 studio apartments, with full bathrooms and kitchenettes, house homeless families at Open House Ministries. More than a shelter, we provide housing and services to about 100 individuals every night. More than half of our residents are children!
The national average cost for operating a family shelter far exceeds what Open House is able to do with the help of many faithful volunteers and the requirement that residents be involved in shelter maintenance through our Giving Back program.
For more information about our approach to homelessness, look around this website, read our newsletters or contact us. Individual and group tours are also available. We invite you to take a first-hand look at the work we do and the difference we make. If interested, please contact Leslie Cook, our development coordinator, at 360-737-0300 or email her at Leslie.Cook@sheltered.org.
Thank you for caring about our community members in need.
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” — Matthew 25:40