PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Tens of thousands of people in the metro are still in need of affordable housing — including Vancouver — and it’s a need that’s only expected to grow. Now, one organization is taking matters into their own hands to provide housing to those in need.
Open House Ministries has operated a shelter for families in Vancouver for more than three decades, but they noticed in recent years, it’s become more difficult for families in need or those transitioning out of the shelter to find affordable housing. Three years ago, OHM talked about the need for affordable housing — a need they say has doubled or even tripled in as many years.
“You can drive down the road and see all of the folks unhoused and the different families that we work with,” said Renee Stevens, executive director of Open House Ministries. “A lot of people are struggling to make ends meet and they end up in either shared housing or they end up in tents.”
In fact, earlier this month, a City of Vancouver study found just to meet new demand and close the housing deficit in 10 years, they would need to increase affordable housing production by at least 2,500 homes, including 750 each year for those earning 80% or less than the area media income — something city councilors agree is needed.
“I think some folks when they think low income, they think, perhaps, they don’t have jobs. Folks not only have jobs but they might have multiple jobs in order to afford units and I think we might need to tell that story a little bit louder,” said Councilor Sarah Fox. “Our wider population that’s out there, the 40% of our population, 50% of our population out there that is working in our community and just need a more affordable place to live.”
The community need is one of the reasons OHM decided to build an apartment complex of affordable units to serve those most in need of a hand-up.
“We prayed, we started a capital campaign, and we raised $10 million, already earned or pledged,” said Stevens. “We’re looking to raise four more million.”
The project, called OHM West, will include 30 units ranging from studios to 3-bedrooms, with vocational training services, a thrift store and bike shop on the first floor. Units will serve as stable housing for families moving on to live on their own from the shelter and each family’s income will be considered before their rent is set.
“They come here hopeless and now they have hope, so they’re really excited to be part of this,” said Stevens.
For Stevens, it’s personal. She and her children were homeless when she first arrived at the shelter years ago, eventually starting there as nighttime security before working her way up into leadership. She hopes their work will inspire others to do the same.
“I hope people can look at it and go, ‘well if they can do it, we can do it,’ because it’s going to take all kinds of organizations to tackle the homeless problem that we have,” said Stevens.
The official groundbreaking for OHM West is set for Oct. 1 and construction is expected to take about 18 months.