Austin real estate developer Alan Graham doesn’t think housing will solve homelessness but he believes the community will. This rang true after he has developed Community First! This housing project is a 27-acre community of tiny houses built for the homeless people in Austin.
Graham started to feel the calling to “love his neighbour” 20 years ago. His first mission was in September 1998 when he fed men and women in the streets. With the help of his friends, Graham delivered meals using a minivan.
He called his social outreach ministry “Mobile Leaves and Fishes” which also became the largest prepared feeding program for the homeless in Central Texas.
Decades later, real estate developer Alan Graham had a new vision in mind: to help the homeless and give them a sense of community and belonging. This transformative community features kitchens, restroom, laundry, and shower facilities.
It also includes a community market, a barber shop, a medical center, an outdoor movie theatre and organic gardens.
These tiny houses were built out of more than $18 million donations Graham raised. Apparently, he wanted to build permanent houses for the homeless and give them a sense of belonging, which they couldn’t get on the streets.
“What we’ve built together is truly extraordinary. This is a place where lives are being transformed every day; 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.”
To help the homeless get back on their feet, Graham didn’t just give them stable homes and a great community but he also provided them with jobs.
People who live in the tiny houses can work at the community’s concessions and caterings, car care, organic farms and woodworking shops for $12 per hour. In return, they need to pay a small amount of monthly rent ($200-$350).
Graham is proud that he has accomplished this project without tapping into religious or government programs. Raising funds privately is also his philosophical choice.
For the people whose lives have touched by the selfless developer, this project was everything. “If it wasn’t for all this, I’d either be in prison or dead,” said Robin Draper, a 47-year-old man who’s been homeless for years.
Richard Devore, another Community First! resident said he loves the comfort and belongingness he get from his tiny house. “Before I moved here, I honestly didn’t think my life would have anything other than being a homeless drug addict,” Devore said.
He lived in an apartment briefly and had a steady job but according to her, old habits were really hard to break. “I hung out with the same people. I didn’t know any of my neighbors. I was living the same life, just with shelter,” he said.
“Eventually I decided I wanted to get high more than I wanted to pay rent. If nothing changes in someone’s life, when the money runs out, they’re going right back to where they were.”
This is the idea that fuels the community and inspires Graham to do more for the homeless and everyone else who needs love and support. Hopefully, there will be more people like Graham who will move mountains to help the people in need.
Learn more about Community First and the awesome human being who started it below.