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Self-contained Texas community of tiny homes offers hope to vulnerable population: ‘No one’s ever done what they’re about to do’

“So there’s a little bit of excitement but also probably a little bit of trepidation about, ‘How do we do this right?’”

"So there’s a little bit of excitement but also probably a little bit of trepidation about, ‘How do we do this right?’"

Photo Credit: Mobile Loaves & Fishes

A self-contained community outside of Austin, Texas, has become home to nearly 400 formerly unhoused people, and the people behind the community are looking to expand to nearly 2,000 homes over three locations in the next several years, as reported by the New York Times. 

Founded by a former real estate developer named Alan Graham, Community First! Village is currently a 51-acre property in Travis County, just northeast of Austin, where the city’s most vulnerable residents are able to rent tiny homes for an average of $385 per month. 

The community also contains a vegetable garden, which grows produce that is free to residents, as well as an art studio, an outdoor movie theater, a game room, and a medical clinic. Residents rely on communal bathrooms and kitchens. 

The project is an impressive achievement, filling an essential need considering that Austin passed a law in 2021 that essentially criminalized homelessness, preventing people from camping in public spaces.

The project was completed without any monetary assistance from the government and funded almost completely through donations from private citizens and companies, such as the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, the founder of the Patrón Spirits Company, Hill Country Bible Church, a land grant from the philanthropic arm of Tito’s Handmade Vodka, and an amphitheater donated by Alamo Drafthouse.

Even better, the tiny homes, designed for free by top architecture firms, are responsible for less pollution because they are energy-efficient.

“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 Austin’s largest homeless-services provider. “So there’s a little bit of excitement but also probably a little bit of trepidation about, ‘How do we do this right?’”

The community has also inspired similar ones in California, with an emphasis on building not just housing for vulnerable populations but community as well.

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