A Home for the Homeless
How Community First! Village is growing to help the homeless of Austin
by Avery Tanner
Community First! Village is not your typical neighborhood. It is home to the formerly homeless and a place where those often undermined by society are encouraged to reach their potential. Community First! was founded as an extension of Mobile Loaves & Fishes, an organization that has been working with Austin’s homeless population for more than 20 years.
Amber Fogarty is the President & Chief Goodness Officer of Community First! Village. And yes, that is her actual job title. “I have the most hopeful job in the world because every day I get to see goodness and love in action,” she says.
The first phase of the village sits on 27 acres and is home to more than 200 previously homeless men and women. Construction on Phase II began in October – a 24-acre addition that will make Community First! Village a 51-acre master planned community with the capacity to house more than 40% of the entire homeless population in Austin.
A typical day for a resident at Community First! includes working at one of the several on-site workplaces. Jobs include repairing cars, screening t-shirts, creating original artwork and landscaping the neighborhood. “We want our neighbors to wake up every day with purpose,” Fogarty says. Each resident pays rent for their RV or micro-home, giving them a sense of ownership and belonging.
Local realtor Carol Dochen is proud to be a part of the completion of Phase I of Community First!. During a visit to the community with her office where they worked in one of the village’s gardens, Dochen felt inspired “to step up and build a home for a fellow Austinite,” she says.
At the time of Dochen’s visit to the village, there was one final micro-home site available for sponsorship in the community’s original footprint. Dochen and her colleagues jumped at the chance to get involved and committed the money to have it built.
Stories like this are what make Community First! what it is. “Austin has rallied around us and it’s what sets Austin apart – the incredible generosity of the community,” Fogarty says.
Phase II of Community First Village! will be under construction for the foreseeable future, as Fogarty and her team do more than just build houses. They are building a true community for people in need.
Want to get involved? You have options – volunteer at the village, donate to the cause or simply take a tour and meet your fellow Austin neighbors. No matter what you decide, Community First! Village will be happy to see you spread goodness. It’s what they’re all about.
See how Community First! Village is changing the lives of Austin’s homeless population with the world premiere of documentary “Community First, A Home for the Homeless” at this year’s SXSW. Special screenings will take place on March 9, 11 & 16 attended by producer and director Layton Blaylock. For more information, head to www.communityfirstthemovie.com.