A roof over their heads

Groundbreaking Austin village expands with 1,400 new homes for the homeless

Austin village expands with 1,400 new homes for homeless

Community First Village Austin
The additions will include many microhomes similar those already on the property.  Courtesy of Mobile Loaves & Fishes

The Austin area’s Community First! Village, hailed as a national model for housing people who’ve experienced long-term homelessness, is expanding with the addition of 1,400 microhomes and manufactured homes.

Mobile Loaves & Fishes, the faith-based Austin nonprofit behind Community First! Village, announced the 127-acre project April 14. Development of the community’s third and fourth phases is set to start in the summer of 2022.

Located near Decker Lake Road and Decker Lane in northeast Travis County, the 51-acre Community First! Village is the permanent home to more than 220 formerly homeless men and women. The village, which will have about 500 microhomes and manufactured homes once construction on the current phase is complete, opened in 2015.

Once the expansion is finished, Community First! Village will encompass 1,900 microhomes and manufactured homes on 178 acres. The third phase will be on a 51-acre plot along Hog Eye Road that’s across from the original site. The fourth phase will be on 76 acres along Burleson Road in Southeast Austin.

“Since our earliest beginnings, Mobile Loaves & Fishes has been laser-focused on serving the chronically homeless in our community,” Alan Graham, founder and chief executive officer of Mobile Loaves & Fishes, says in a news release. “With the expansion news we’re announcing ... for Community First! Village, we’re taking a significant next step in delivering upon our broader ‘Ten Year Plan to Mitigate Homelessness in Austin’ — an ambitious plan that we first launched and shared with the city more than three years ago.” 

Amber Fogarty, president of Mobile Loaves & Fishes, says the expansion addresses the “intensifying conversation” over the seemingly “dismal situation” surrounding homelessness in Austin. Appearing on Austin’s May election ballot, Proposition B would reinstate the city’s controversial ban on outdoor camping by homeless people and others.

“Mobile Loaves & Fishes firmly believes that there is hope — that when innovative models like Community First! Village continue to take root and grow, and when other ideas are pursued and put in motion by different leaders and groups throughout our great city, there is indeed reason to believe that there is hope in our future for the entire community,” Fogarty says.

The nearly $120 million expansion of Community First! Village is being partially financed by a gift from the philanthropic arm of the Austin-based Tito’s vodka brand, founded by billionaire Bert “Tito” Beveridge. Mobile Loaves & Fishes will undertake a campaign to raise money for the project.

“Community First! Village is a vital and important piece of the puzzle when it comes to addressing the diverse needs of our neighbors experiencing homelessness,” Austin Mayor Steve Adler says. “This is a community issue, and it requires a community response that involves housing those in need, not hiding them. With [the] announced expansion, we can be successful if our community steps forward to address this challenge in different ways and at a much larger scale.”