Open House Ministries Block Party and Resource Fair Return to Vancouver After 2 Years Away

The children have cotton candy. Pets have been microchipped. People got their hair cut. And everyone was happy to come together as the Community Block Party and Open House Ministries Outreach Resource Fair returned Thursday for the first time in two years.

Members of the Vancouver community began gathering around 1 p.m. in sunny August weather to eat and meet other participants. Some strolled around the outdoor and indoor tables, where more than 31 exhibitors offered services and information. Others lined up for lunch or to dip the Open House Ministries chaplain. A group of attendees began to sing along to religious music, their arms outstretched to the sky.

Open House Ministries, a faith-based family shelter for the homeless, held its annual block party at its downtown Vancouver campus. The block party included a free barbecue lunch, haircuts, a dunk tank, games and a fashion show, among other activities. The event was open to everyone.

“For homeless people who are either homeless or in a tent, maybe in transitional housing, they can just go downstairs,” Open House Ministries executive director Renee Stevens said. “There are plenty of resources here, from getting your pet vaccinated, to cotton candy, face painting, mental health, drug and alcohol services.”

The event returned this year after a two-year hiatus caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Stevens said the organization hopes to feed at least 500 people at the event.

Shayla Toliver, a 36-year-old Vancouver resident, attended the event with her five children. She watched her children run around as she ordered them freshly made cotton candy.