A non-profit organization steps up to ease homelessness in Austin by giving vulnerable people a safe haven on the outskirts.
The modern-day world is overwhelming for everyone. Stress levels are off the roof and everyone is struggling just to survive. In such situations, the only thing that turns out to be a saving grace for people is their safe haven. Having a place to call home where people feel protected is a privilege in this world. Unfortunately, not everyone in this world enjoys this privilege. As reported by the National Alliance to End Homelessness, 582,462 people were experiencing homelessness across America in 2022. It means 18 people out of every 10,000 did not have a home to go back to. The staggering number showcases the real picture of the great American dynasty. Community First! Village is one of the organizations fighting diligently against this social evil present within the country, as per Good News Network. Now it is looking to expand its operation to help more people in Texas because of some great fundraising and becoming one of the largest communities of its kind.
Texas Standard reported that in the last two years, homelessness has increased rapidly by 125% in Austin. Despite efforts from the government, it has been a tough task to get the situation under control. One of the few organizations making headway in combating this problem is Community First! Village. They started their operation on the outskirts of Austin to give shelter to individuals who were homeless. These individuals were not only provided with a place to stay but were also given resources to build a life for themselves. At present, the organization operates 100 RVs and 125 micro-houses. In the community, the organization has set up gardens, bee hives, workspaces, playgrounds, recreational areas, parks, kitchens and a dozen other group facilities.
The Community First village was my favorite Austin neighbor for years. Remarkable stories come out of that little village. https://t.co/GeIVzhhwrR— Chris Hopper (@chrishopper2) January 11, 2024
Residents are required to pay a nominal fee of $200 to $430 per month to gain entry into these communities. This amount can be easily earned by people through jobs available in the village. As mentioned in the introductory video about the village, people here can build things like candles, which are then sold off by the organization, and in return, individuals get a portion. It further mentions how everything in the community is made to foster relationships so that people who live here truly feel like family. This project turns out to be their first step towards independence. Later on, the organization collaborated with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to subsidize part or all of a low-income resident’s rent, per the New York Times. During their operations, the organization was bestowed with two $35 million windfalls: one from the American Rescue Plan and a gift from the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation.
In 2022, the organization selected an adjacent site where they will be constructing more tiny homes, bringing the number of them in the state to 2000, using these newly acquired funds. These homes will be designed by architectural firms that will work pro bono on this project to make the houses as energy-efficient as possible. In the beginning, there was no other organization putting forth such housing for homeless individuals.
The creators of this village were the Mobile Loaves & Fishes charity which took up the baton in 2014. “No one ever really did what they first did and no one’s ever done what they’re about to do,” said Mark Hilbelink, the director of Sunrise Navigation Center, Austin’s largest homeless services provider, in his interview, “So there’s a little bit of excitement but also probably a little bit of trepidation about, ‘How do we do this right?’” Seeing their success, many other groups have begun following their plan. Currently, the community provides housing for 200 individuals. Once the new set-ups are fully functional, they can provide accommodation to 500 people, which is 40% of Austin's homeless population.