With over 500,000 people in America suffering from the pains of homelessness, one generous real estate developer is using his success to help as many people as he can finally have their own home. Alan Graham founded the compassionate Community First! Village in Austin, Texas, a 51-acre property with over 500 homes that provide permanent housing and support for men and women who have experienced chronic homelessness.
Alan’s “transformative residential program exists to love and serve our neighbors who have been living on the streets, while also empowering the surrounding community into a lifestyle of service with the homeless,” according to their website. Richard Devore, one of the residents, is overjoyed to finally have a place to call home. He lives in a 250-square-foot house with wood cabinets and oak trees outside, as well as a close support network of people he can now call family.
Richard, who had been homeless for more than 13 years before moving in, loves “the fact that I’m supposed to be here.” “I can unwind and feel at home here.” Alan first felt the call to “love his neighbor” over 20 years ago, when he and his friends used a minivan to compassionately deliver food to homeless men and women in 1998. He began calling his social outreach ministry “Mobile Leaves & Fishes,” and it quickly grew into one of central Texas’ largest programs for feeding the homeless.
Years later, Alan had a new vision: he wanted to truly help the homeless by providing them with a place to live, but more importantly, he wanted to provide them with a sense of loving community and belonging. Alan and his team were able to build this beautiful community thanks to over $18 million in donations from kind and generous donors. The lovely neighborhood includes houses, kitchens, restrooms, laundry facilities, and warm showers.
They also have a medical center, a community market, a barbershop, an organic garden, and an outdoor movie theater! “What we’ve created together is truly remarkable.” “Every day, lives are being transformed here; friends are being empowered to cultivate with purpose,” Alan said. “It’s a place where they’re loved, where they’re known, and where they can call home.” Real people who have endured tremendous suffering are rediscovering life.”
“Housing alone will never end homelessness; only community will. Alan not only provides housing and a healthy community with support to help the homeless get back on their feet, but he also gives residents the opportunity to work within the community. While not every homeless person can work due to health issues, mental illness, or physical disability, those who do can earn $12 an hour in woodworking shops, community concessions and catering, car care, or at the community’s organic farm.
Those who are able to work full-time in the community give back by paying a small rent, usually between $200 and $350. Hundreds of lovable men and women have had their lives beautifully changed by this community that is truly helping. “If it hadn’t been for all of this, I’d be in prison or dead,” said Robin Draper, a 47-year-old resident who had been homeless for several years.