Updated: Jul 13
“The single greatest cause of homelessness is the profound catastrophic loss of family. Housing will never solve homelessness, but community will.”
This is one of the first things Stormy (our Community Advocate) and I (Amanda, THI’s Streets Storyteller) heard as we sat in on our first day of a symposium by Community First! Village, a 51-acre community filled with formerly homeless and never homeless people living as neighbors.
MY STEREOTYPES “The profound catastrophic loss of family is the greatest cause of homelessness...”
This repeated over and over in my mind throughout the three days Stormy and I were at Community First! Village. All the stereotypes you’ve heard about the
homeless are ones I grew up believing… stereotypes strong enough to make me (and a lot of people) weary of getting close. Holidays and church trips handing out food with three feet of table in between was as close as I’d get. And it breaks my heart to think about that.
Let me be more specific…
NOTHING IN THE WAY
While my perspective toward the homeless began to slowly change for the better during college, I’ve been able to gain a much deeper perspective each day since working with
The Human Impact. Elisabeth Jordan started The Human Impact out of a similar idea that relationship, a supportive community, is the key to changing the homeless reality.
When I got hired on, this practically meant that visiting the streets would be done without the comfort of a table or something tangible to give. And when there’s nothing in the way, it turns out making a friend is really the only thing you can do.
LOSS OF FAMILY As I’ve gotten to know some people on the streets in South Dallas, I’d now consider some of them to be my friends. And every single one of them has had a catastrophic loss of family or support system (that quote at the beginning proving to be true). And it’s usually not long after that when they become homeless.
Admiring the work of different architects during our tour of Community First! Village. This is why I can say now it breaks my heart to know I was so focused on the transaction the majority of my life and not the person in front of me who really needed a friend.
A PERMANENT HOME Community First! Village not only provides affordable, permanent housing for those coming out of chronic homelessness, it provides a supportive community. And guess what? This community has an 87% retention rate, meaning 87% of their residents stay! They can also choose to make it their permanent home.
The staff at Community First! Village shared that when those who had lived on the streets for a long time moved into a Community First! home, it would take them three months for every year they were on the street to adjust.
For many of them, this looked like sleeping on the floor next to their bed for months, transitioning later to a sleeping bag on top of their bed covers, then eventually to throwing their sleeping bag away. It has taken a long time for many to realize their home and their bed at this village are not going anywhere and that they are secure enough to make it their own.
TRULY A COMMUNITY As I walked passed Peaceful Path on Goodness Way the first morning I arrived at Community First! Village, I was greeted by a man in a golf cart who told me there was a beautiful garden up ahead that I should check out. Then later, as Stormy and I were walking into Unity Hall, a woman in a wheelchair greeted us to make sure we felt welcomed. She then went on to share how this place has become her home, her community, and how it has changed her life.
As I discovered more of this village in the days that followed, I marveled at the creativity of those who built these homes, felt moved as we passed by their Memorial Garden while they talked about being a place of permanence, and ate up the stories told about what God is doing in this place.
MOBILE LOAVES & FISHES
This beautiful village is a development of Mobile Loaves & Fishes, a social outreach ministry that started over 20 years ago out of a food truck in Austin. And I am so grateful I got to learn more from them about how all of us need one another, that we can’t and are not meant to do this life alone.
I also learned that dreams might look as small as one food truck, but then turn into an “RV Park on steroids” with even more to come!
“I didn’t know I was going to build an RV Park on steroids,” Alan Graham, Founder and CEO of Mobile Loaves & Fishes said. “Only God can architect this deal.”