Homeless Village Made Possible

To see a handful of shovels stuck in the ground is expected for a ceremonial groundbreaking, but it’s not every day that those who will actually live in a planned residential community make the first dig.

Community First Village, a cluster of small homes east of Highway 183 off Decker Lane that will house Austin’s disabled homeless, had its groundbreaking Aug. 27. Alan Graham, one of the many behind the village’s fundraising, said he wanted the ceremony to be about the homeless they’re serving.

And so the media turned, training its cameras on about a half dozen people who had likely gone unnoticed by society for many years, and those who grasped the golden shovels grinned as they tossed the dirt into the air.

Money raised so far will begin to fund what organizers plan to be a collection of 225 affordable housing units, from micro-houses to RVs. However, the organization is still seeking donors to fund all of these planned houses.

“This campaign’s not over,” said Graham, CEO of the Westlake-based charity Mobile Loaves and Fishes that seeks to feed the city’s homeless. “We’re going to break ground here; we’re going to build all the roads and infrastructure, but we have to build the homes as well. And we need your help to be able to do that.”

The Community First Village nonprofit, which Graham started 10 years ago after running Mobile Loaves and Fishes for six years, has raised about $7 million so far for the community. Mobile Loaves and Fishes has been housing homeless Austinites for a while, though not on the 27-acre tract where they broke ground — “an RV park on steroids,” Graham calls it. The group currently puts about 60 homeless people up in RVs throughout the city.

Village residents will have access to public transportation, organization officials said.

During the ceremony, the group thanked state House Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, who sponsored a bill in the legislature, which passed, that exempted the village and its land from property taxes.

“That’s a key in our ability to have the lowest possible operating cost so that the poorest people in our community can live without having to suffer the increase in property values that we all experience,” Graham said.

Mobile Loaves and Fishes is currently taking applications from future residents. They hope to start opening the homes to residents in six months. Email Blythe Plunkett at blythe@mlf.org for information about the application process.