Hundreds of thousands of people are homeless in the US. While there are homeless shelters, they are frequently too full to accommodate everyone, and also offer little or no privacy or safety for those inside.
But around the country, there had been a few projects to provide housing in tiny homes to those who are experiencing long-term homelessness.
One such project is the Community First! Village in Austin, TX, developed by Alan Graham.
The development sits on 51 acres and features over 500 tiny houses.
Introducing the project, its website says, “Welcome to the most talked about neighborhood in Austin, Texas! Community First! Village is a 51-acre master planned community that provides affordable, permanent housing and a supportive community for men and women coming out of chronic homelessness. A development of Mobile Loaves & Fishes, this transformative residential program exists to love and serve our neighbors who have been living on the streets, while also empowering the surrounding community into a lifestyle of service with the homeless.”
This map shows you the layout of the development. Along with tiny houses, it features community recreational areas and gardens. As you can see at the top where it reads, “Phase 2 coming soon!”, Further development is planned to expand the community and offer additional housing and resources to the homeless.
You might expect Spartan designs given that this is a homeless community, but you can see that each house is individual in design and built with love and creativity so that it feels like home, not just a place to sleep.
Here you can see the interior of one of the tiny houses. With its small kitchenette, its bed, and its general living space, you can see that it has everything necessary to live comfortably. It also offers the privacy and dignity that a homeless shelter typically does not.
If you happen to be reading this as a prospective resident, you can sign up for a Potential Resident Tour by applying for a house.
Every house in the homeless park is unique, designed in a different style. This architectural representation of diversity visually reflects the welcoming, inclusive nature of the community.
To qualify, prospective residents need to have inhabited Travis County for a minimum of one year and be defined as “chronically homeless.” That means not just having been homeless for over a year, but also having a qualifying disability.
It should be noted that this is a transitional community aimed at those who have a form of income (rent is required). This could be from a job, but Social Security income is also considered.
So, this community does not offer free housing, but it does seek to keep housing affordable while providing a supportive community in which to thrive and grow.
This mission is summarized in the statement, “Mobile Loaves & Fishes is leading an unprecedented collaborative effort to mitigate homelessness in the city of Austin. This transformative community exists to care for and serve our friends who are coming out of chronic homelessness and yearn for a permanent place to call home.”
Even someone who has newly acquired a job can easily slip into cracks again without this kind of support.
If you are in search of volunteer opportunities, there are events taking place pretty much every day in which you can potentially get involved.
With the variety of tiny house designs in the community, each one offers its own unique benefits.
Through this project, its founders seek to address homelessness in a holistic fashion which goes beyond placing a roof over a person’s head. As the site explains, ” Mobile Loaves & Fishes has a basic philosophy that housing alone will never solve homelessness, but community will. Most often, we find people on the streets who have a regular, albeit dysfunctional, community, even though they have no houses or shelter to live in. So the fundamental component that human beings need is human interaction; and human interaction occurs within community.”
While living in the community, residents can take advantage of services for healthcare and behavioral health as well as substance abuse recovery. There is also food grown directly on the premises as well as “micro-enterprise business opportunities.”
Along with modern tiny houses, there are many traditional mobile homes also available for rent in the community.
On an acre of land, both residents and volunteers are able to contribute to growing organic vegetables, fruit and nuts for the community while also taking care of chickens, goats and bees.
The community supports its resident artists by showcasing and selling their works at the Community Art House.
Along with the Community Art House, there also is a Community Forge, which is a fully functional blacksmith shop.
Visiting Austin and want to experience and support the community? There is also a Community Inn. Describing it, the site says, “As one of the country’s largest tiny house bed-and-breakfast sites, the Community Inn offers eclectic and affordable options for your Austin stay. We invite you to browse our unique variety of vacation rental spaces. Whether you are looking for a night in a distinctive tiny home, a trendy Airstream travel trailer, or a spacious RV, we guarantee you will be able find something that fits your style and tees up the perfect getaway!”
If you want to learn more about Austin’s tiny house community for the transitioning homeless or find out how you can contribute, visit Mobile Loaves & Fishes.