April 12, 2019

A Texas nonprofit is building a suburban village for people emerging from chronic homelessness

Here are two stories that showcase the different ways you can help those in need.

Community First! Village is a 51-acre planned community that will provide affordable, permanent housing for men and women coming out of chronic homelessness. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Each week, The Renewal Project shares three stories from around the country that highlight the innovative solutions people are creating in their communities. What are the innovative ideas in your hometown? Tell us at info@therenewalproject.com.

It takes a village: In Austin, Texas, the nonprofit Mobile Loaves & Fishes built an entire village to help support people coming out of chronic homelessness. Community First! Village is a 27-acre community that provides affordable, permanent housing to over 200 formerly homeless individuals. The nonprofit is currently in the process of expanding the village by adding an additional 24 acres. This will bring the entire village to 51-acres, and it will be able to house nearly 500 people, about 40 percent of Austin’s homeless population.

This nonprofit’s vision is to “empower communities into a lifestyle of service with the homeless,” by providing them with the resources and tools needed to succeed. The village includes about 100 RVs and 125 micro homes, but the playgrounds, meeting halls, dog parks, an outdoor movie theater, and a market help provide a sense of community. By having a neighborhood with different group activities, it encourages residents to step outside, join in, and build relationships.

“The love we are shown here makes this not just a place to live, but we are a part of a community. We are connected to each other,” Richard Devore, a resident at Community First! Village, wrote on the village’s website. Mobile Loaves & Fishes hopes to eventually inspire a movement of compassionate solutions to homelessness cross the United States.

Started with a school counselor: What originated with one school counselor trying to help students with his only money, eventually resulted in a community-wide outreach program to those in need. Bobbi Angely, a school counselor at Kimpton Middle School in Stow, Ohio, was approached by students who were unable to afford or access daily necessities, from hairbrushes to calculators. Angely, along with other staff from the school, took the initiative to help the students and provided them with supplies they needed. Using their own money, the staff created gift bags with clothes, hygiene products, and food and wrote notes signed “Kimpton Cares.”

Soon after, officials from Stow, Munroe Falls, SMF N.I.C.E. (Stow Munroe Falls Neighborhood Improvement and Community Enrichment) and the Stow-Munroe Falls school district got involved as well once they heard what Angely and the Kimpton staff were doing, thus turning it into a community-wide effort. Pamphlets were created for children to see the Stow-specific resources that are available to them, including food, clothing, counseling, temporary housing and shelter, and veteran assistance. The pamphlets will be mailed out next month in Stow and Munroe Falls and sent home with Stow-Munroe Falls students in order to make the information easily accessible. The organization announced the initiative Monday, calling it not a “crisis”, but “something that [they] owe to the community.”

According to Summit County Public Health data, 5.5 percent of individuals and 3 percent of families in Stow live below the poverty level, while 22 percent of the 5,200 students in the district are on free and reduced lunch.

SMF CARES, an initiative by SMF N.I.C.E., established a fund to help those in need in the Stow-Munroe Falls community. Moving forward, SMF CARES is planning a campaign called “Drop Your Drawers” which will take place between April 15 and 26. People can participate by bringing new, unopened packs of underwear in youth and teen sizes along with disposable feminine hygiene products to stock school clinics and to give to those in need.

Danielle Moskowitz

Danielle Moskowitz

Danielle Moskowitz is a contributor to The Renewal Project.
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