MHP works with OPEN Housing in Port Angeles, Washington.

Olympic Peninsula Extended Needs Housing (OPEN Housing) spent a snowy 1.5 days in Port Angeles, WA with MHP staff members Barbara Dolan, Devon Pohlman, and Courtney Overby on a site visit to complete a needs assessment; exchanging stories, touring properties, and diving into discussions on priorities for the organization. OPEN was formally incorporated in 2019 and currently offers 14 units for rent at two properties in Sequim and Port Angeles. With a mission to “provide sustainable, secure, affordable housing for people with developmental disabilities and low-income others in a shared and integrated community so all can thrive,” OPEN Housing develops low-income housing for adults with disabilities (and other low-income neuro-typical adults) who are willing and able to live and thrive in a shared housing community.  

In the US, nearly 75% of adults experiencing intellectual or developmental disabilities live in their family’s home. On the Olympic Peninsula, that number is closer to 99%. Imagine being an adult who wants to live independently, develop social skills, and learn what it means to contribute to their community with nowhere they can afford to go. Out of every four Americans, one experiences an intellectual or developmental disability. housing adults with disabilities shapes the collective future of all of us.

OPEN Housing applied for technical assistance (TA) through MHP’s online application. MHP technical and financial assistance is tailored to help build the capacity of local housing drivers and promote local housing solutions that address gaps in existing services. A needs assessment site visit is the first step for the MHP team and project partners to meet in person, view properties or sites, and build the foundation for a 24-36 month-long working relationship. MHP assesses whether an organization has the capacity and readiness and aligns with its mission in order to be successful when utilizing MHP programs and funding sources. This time together provides MHP staff with the opportunity to connect with individuals, entities, and partners involved in collaboratively crafting a living work plan. Creating affordable housing and building strong communities is complex work! 

From left to right: Devon Pohlman (MHP), Barbara Dolan (MHP),  Kimberly Ortloff (OPEN Board President), Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin (Port Angeles City Council) Liza Searles (Executive Director), Courtney Overby (MHP)

As part of the OPEN Housing needs assessment, MHP staff worked closely with the team to identify and prioritize organizational challenges. The project team met and heard from local Port Angeles council member Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin about the approach and systemic barriers to housing that the community-at-large faces. MHP staff also heard directly from Dorine Hunter, a former board of directors’ officer, about the significance of the acronym OPEN as a name that supporters would recognize, and about the extensive network of the mothers of those experiencing disabilities, who founded and sustain the organization’s operations and administrative success. Hearing the stories firsthand, in community, forges meaning and structure, and sets the tone for the rest of the technical assistance engagement.  

The assessment revealed that OPEN’s communal single-family home model is well-positioned for organizational sustainability and the future development of new housing for IDD adults. MHP’s work plan with OPEN Housing will include board of director recruitment and training and reviewing existing and creating new policies and procedures. OPEN Housing is excited about an update to the website and a rebranding effort in addition to hiring, staff development, and strategic organizational planning.  

MHP’s Community Development team delivers the resources and knowledge needed to create and preserve housing and community assets. We collaborate directly with communities, regions, and organizations across the country to achieve their housing and community development goals. From innovative community planning practices to knowledge of complex federal grants and programs, our expertise helps to create effective — and lasting — collaboration among community leaders.  

Does your community need knowledge in housing, community, and/or organizational development? Looking for collaborations and partnerships to bring affordable housing to your community? To learn more, contact Devon Pohlman, Director of Community Development at devon.pohlman [at]