Just over 20 years ago, Alan Graham received what he believes was a call from God to “love your neighbor.” And he knew nobody needed love and support more than his neighbors without homes.
So in September 1998, Alan and a few of his friends set out on a mission to serve Austin’s homeless. Not only did they feed men and women on the streets, but they made them feel seen. And eventually, they gave them something even better: a sense of belonging and community.
The group delivered meals out of the back of a minivan before upgrading to a pick-up truck with a catering bed. Soon, the daily deliveries expanded into a social outreach ministry called Mobile Loaves & Fishes, and has since become the largest prepared feeding program to the homeless in Central Texas. Now, decades later, the program is made up of over 20,000 volunteers who are out seven nights a week in Austin, giving away food, clothing, and other necessities.
Still, Alan wanted to do more for his neighbors. He had a vision of a community, a safe haven for homeless people to finally call home, heal, and find hope again. And in an unprecedented collaborative effort, he saw it through in 2018.
Welcome to Community First! Village, a 51-acre paradise and permanent home to hundreds coming off the streets. According to Alan, it’s one of the most talked about neighborhoods in Austin, and it’s not hard to see why.
Phase I of the village covers 27 acres and can house up to 200 formerly homeless men and women. Phase II adds an additional 24 acres, and once complete, will allow the entire village to house nearly 500. That’s about 40% of Austin’s chronically homeless population.
The village features community kitchens, laundry, restroom, and shower facilities, as well as a number of fun and educational activities to participate in. Residents can work in organic gardens, collect fresh eggs from their chickens, and care for goats producing cheese, milk and soap.
The village even holds movie nights at their community cinema, where residents can gather and enjoy the simple pleasure of watching a classic film together.
But perhaps one of its best features is the opportunity for residents to earn an income. The community market offer jobs, but residents can also earn money through gardening, blacksmithing, woodworking, car care, screen printing, art, and concessions.
“What we’ve built together is truly extraordinary. This is a place where lives are being transformed everyday; a place where friends are empowered to cultivate with purpose.” Alan said. “It’s a place where they are loved, where they are known, and where they can settle. Real people who have lived through tremendous suffering are finding life all over again.”
That’s what Alan and everyone involved are giving to these individuals — a second chance at life. What an amazing gift to be able to give.
Learn more about Mobile Loaves & Fishes and this incredible community in the video below. Share to spread the word!
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