Community First! Village Helps Austin’s Chronically Homeless Rebuild Critical Ties With Others

The sounds of Texas.

By Joy Díaz & Caroline CovingtonApril 20, 2021 12:57 pm, , ,

For Alan Graham, founder of Austin’s homelessness recovery organization Mobile Loaves and Fishes, homelessness has no gender, racial, ethnic or religious boundaries. Since starting the Community First! Village affordable housing community several years ago to help bring people out of chronic homelessness, Graham says it’s become abundantly clear to him that homelessness equals a profound loss of family. Community First! helps rebuild that sense of community for people experiencing homelessness so they can begin to thrive.

Alan Graham, right, in 2014.

“We have spent thousands of nights sleeping on the streets with our friends. Me personally, over 250 nights. We learned in this process that the single greatest cause of homelessness is a profound, catastrophic loss of family because the issues that we run into every day [that] reside in your family’s and my family’s mental health issues, addiction issues, loss of jobs – all of the things that are out there have impacted who you and I are.”


“My No.1 admonition is to come out here and see for yourself, because what they see under the bridges and along our medians and in the alleyways and on the street corners is often disturbing for people.”


A public garden at Community First! Village. Gabriel C. Pérez/KUT News

“When they come out here and encounter this beautiful space, they don’t see trash on the ground. They’re not stepping over feces out here, they’re not smelling urine. They’re seeing people working and being productive. They see an outdoor Alamo Drafthouse movie theater, a clinic, a store, a woodshop, an entrepreneur hub, a living room, an organic farming operation, all being run and operated by men and women that were formerly chronically homeless.”


“You know who the homeless are? They’re men, they’re women, they’re Black, they’re white, they’re brown, they’re Christian, they’re Jewish, they’re Muslims, Zoroastrians, Buddhists … transgender. I believe that not only do I live in the middle of the most talked-about neighborhood in Austin, Texas, I believe that I get to live in the middle of the most diverse neighborhood that I’ve ever seen.”

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