All previously chronically homeless on the streets with no money in their pockets, 200 people are living in a 27-acre community just outside Austin, Texas, and are paying rent of between $225 to $430 per month. Many of the residents who live in very small homes and recreational vehicles at Community First! Village are employed on-site. 

Community First! Village tiny home (photo: Mobile Loaves & Fishes website)

And that’s only the first phase of this project. Community First! Village was developed by Mobile Loaves & Fishes, a “social outreach ministry that has been empowering communities into a lifestyle of service with the homeless since 1998.” According to the non-profit’s website, “the single greatest cause of homelessness is a profound, catastrophic loss of family.” Today, in its second phase, the community is evolving into “a 51-acre master planned development that provides affordable, permanent housing and a supportive community for men and women coming out of chronic homelessness.” Once finished, approximately 500 individuals will live at Community First!

It all started when Mobile Loaves & Fishes obtained 27 acres of land to the northeast of Austin outside the city limits through private donations. The goal from the beginning was to, “lift up to 250 homeless people off the streets, provide them shelter and give them an opportunity to revitalize their lives.” The residents must pay rent, obey civil law and follow the rules of the community, such as keeping their pets on a leash and making sure the area stays clean. They can take advantage of micro-enterprise opportunities through a Community Works program that earns them some income. Volunteers come to work in the village alongside the residents, who do gardening, art, blacksmithing and woodworking, among other jobs. 

To help the community out, volunteer! Have a look at the master volunteer calendar for ways to get involved. Activities include working a farmers market stand, groundskeeping, serving popcorn during movie night, giving haircuts (if you’re a licensed hair stylist or barber), or harvesting the gardens, tending the chicken coop, landscaping yards, building garden beds, laying pathways, and much more! The calendar is available at volunteer-community-first.

This project’s stated purpose and vision are: to empower communities into a lifestyle of service with the homeless. Its mission is: to provide food and clothing and promote dignity to our homeless brothers and sisters in need. 

Featured image: Mosaic of the fish and loaves, Church of the Multiplication, Tabgha