I don’t think I ever really made it to Fully Christian, having written escape clauses into my Methodist confirmation vows, but I get really excited at the rarity of Christian organizations who seem to actually be following the teachings of one Jesus M. Christ. Mobile Loaves and Fishes, creators of the Community First Village for the homeless, seems to be doing just that.
From their website:
Community First! Village
is a 27-acre master-planned community that will provide affordable, sustainable housing and a supportive community for the disabled, chronically homeless in Central Texas.
Community First! Village Includes:
An innovative mix of affordable housing options
Places for worship, study, and fellowship
Memorial garden and columbarium
A community garden featuring fruit- and nut-bearing trees and vegetables
A chicken operation, bee hives producing fresh honey, and aquaponics
A workshop with tool bank and art gallery for micro-enterprise opportunities
A medical facility for physical and mental health screenings and support services including hospice and respite care
An outdoor theater and bed & breakfast for mission visits
CAP Metro bus stop
Although I can’t claim to have actually toured that many actual intentional communities in person, this was absolutely the most amazing, comprehensive, and well-planned one I’ve ever seen. Alan Graham, the mastermind behind both organizations, conducted the tour. I’ve rarely met a more charismatic, positive, or focused person. He spoke movingly about his own journey learning how to help the homeless, starting with meal delivery and now expanding into Community First.
You do, in fact, have to be homeless or consistently displaced to live there. Alan, a real-estate developer in his previous life, said that the entire project had been funded through donations. The only sales pitch we got while there was from a delightful woman who was on the street just a few days ago who claimed to be legally blind and was in a wheelchair. The rest of the tour was showing us all the amazing different small house designs already finished or under construction. Alan said about 30 people live there now, but they’ll have as many as 250 eventually. Lodging includes RVs, tiny houses on wheels, many various passive-solar mini-houses designed by local green engineers and architects. Many of the small living memes seen recently on Facebook were present in real life here.
There are a variety of public meeting places including centers, parks, massive organic gardens with chickens and goats, fire pits, all scattered across the property so that people can congregate where they want rather than being forced to be all in one place. Everyone on site is fed for free on Friday, and food from the garden is given out on a rotating basis. Most homes don’t have bathrooms or AC, which will encourage people to socialize at least a little on the way to places that do.
While I’m disappointed I won’t be able to live in Community First Village (I’m not quite *that* homeless yet!), it’s success will pave the way for other intentional communities in this area, which happens to be 10 minutes from where I’m currently living. It’s also an example of how getting this kind of project off the ground works more quickly with strong leadership than by committee. Only time will tell if the result is as sustainable.
There are plenty of volunteer opportunities available, and I think I’ll be pitching in somewhere. I have many useful community building skills, and I’m not afraid to hang out with Christians I can respect.
Thanks to Alan for creating such an amazing place and giving us such a gracious tour!