Frequently Asked Questions

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More than anything, we encourage you to attend one of our symposiums held throughout the year to learn more about our unique “Community First!” approach to housing the homeless and how you can bring a similar vision to your own community. You can find future dates for symposiums on MLF’s events page. Additionally, to receive information about future symposiums and opportunities for learning more about Community First! Village, please sign up here.

The idea behind Community First! Village simply began with one person in one RV. In 2004, Mobile Loaves & Fishes purchased our first gently used RV with a goal of lifting one person off the streets of Austin and enabling them to live in that RV. This was the advent of our Community First program, and in the years that followed we lifted up more than 100 individuals from the streets and moved them into RV homes in different RV communities in the Austin area. It was during this time that we also began to brainstorm the idea of developing our own “RV park on steroids” to provide affordable, permanent housing as well as a supportive community for our homeless neighbors who were living on the streets. We began moving our first residents into Community First! Village in December 2015.

It’s all about relationships. Mobile Loaves & Fishes desires to empower the community around us into a lifestyle of service with the homeless. We achieve this vision through Community First! Village by taking a relational approach for connecting with our homeless brothers and sisters, instead of a transactional approach. When we bring an individual into community with others, we truly begin to make a sustainable impact on their lives.

Mobile Loaves & Fishes believes that the single greatest cause of homelessness is a profound, catastrophic loss of family. That’s why our focus at Community First! Village is to do more than just provide adequate housing. We have developed a community with revolutionary services and attention to an individual’s relational needs at a fraction of the cost of traditional housing initiatives. We seek to empower our residents to build relationships with others, and to experience healing and restoration as part of engaging with a broader community.

Mobile Loaves & Fishes has a basic philosophy that housing alone will never solve homelessness, but community will. Most often, we find people on the streets who have a regular, albeit dysfunctional, community, even though they have no houses or shelter to live in. So the fundamental component that human beings need is human interaction; and human interaction occurs within community.

 Community First! Village is located in northeast Travis County, not too far from the Travis Country Exposition Center. The property is roughly eight miles from downtown Austin and is accessible by public transportation. The address for Community First! Village is: 9301 Hog Eye Rd. Austin, Texas 78724.

Community First! Village offers an innovative mix of housing options, including 120 micro-homes, 100 RVs and 20 canvas-sided cottages. Once the Village reaches capacity, which we expect to happen in mid-to-late 2017, Community First! Village will be home to more than 200 formerly homeless men and women

No, Community First! Village provides permanent housing. The intent is that any individual who qualifies can live in the Village permanently, providing they pay their rent, abide by civil law and follow the rules of the community.

One of our goals at Mobile Loaves & Fishes is to transform the way people view the stereotype of individuals who find themselves homeless. After nearly two decades of serving and working within the homeless population, we believe the stereotype of chronically homeless individuals as it relates to crime is actually wrong. Chronically homeless individuals are among the most vulnerable and most often are the victims of crime, as opposed to being the perpetrators of crime.

Every neighborhood in any city at any time is susceptible to some level of criminal activity. Neighborhoods can mitigate potential criminal activity through strong vigilance. The very essence of Community First! Village is neighbor looking after neighbor. Crime statistics for the three mile area surrounding Community First! Village shows a dramatic contrast to what we experience in our neighborhood. We are hopeful that our model and vigilance can be transferred to our surrounding neighbors so that they, too, can experience the safety and refuge that our residents enjoy at Community First! Village.

In Texas, there is no discretionary land use authority outside of municipal boundaries. “Not in my backyard” (NIMBY) resistance most often leverages zoning to discriminate against populations of people they would prefer not to have in their neighborhoods. Community First! Village sits just outside of the City of Austin city limits; therefore, there is no zoning. We do, however, have to comply with certain state regulations involving density and water quality. If you’re interested in understanding discretionary land use authority or zoning in your community, we recommend consulting with a land use expert specific to your state.

No, we do not believe Austin will become a magnet to the chronically homeless population. We would, however, like to see Community First! Village become an example across the country of how to innovatively address homelessness. We will require Community First! Village residents to demonstrate proof of homeless dwelling for at least one year within the Austin metropolitan area. This is to help assure that Community First! Village accomplishes its goal of addressing Austin’s problem of chronic homelessness.

There will be a spiritual life within Community First! Village, but no requirement to participate.

Although Mobile Loaves & Fishes is a Christian faith-based organization, our first priority is the dignity of the human person. Additionally, we have made a commitment as part of our privilege of having tax exempt status to not discriminate against anyone. We have a deep abiding respect for all faiths and welcome all individuals into our community — both Community First! Village residents, and those who wish to volunteer or serve the residents living in our community

Since 2014, Mobile Loaves & Fishes has been lifting chronically homeless individuals up off the streets of Austin into permanent, affordable and sustainable RV homes through our Community First program. About 86% of our residents continue to live independently and successfully in their homes.

We offer regular tours of Community First! Village on select Saturdays each month. You can sign up for a tour here.

We appreciate your generosity and willingness to support the residents at Community First! Village. While a monetary donation truly is the most compassionate way you can give, you can also choose from one of three options to help us furnish micro-homes at Community First! Village.

To be eligible to live in Community First! Village, an individual must be chronically homeless as defined in the City of Austin’s Ten Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness:

“A person who is ‘chronically homeless’ is an unaccompanied homeless individual with a disabling condition who has either been continuously homeless for a year or more, or has had at least four (4) episodes of homelessness in the past three (3) years lasting a minimum of 15 days each. In order to be considered chronically homeless, a person must have been sleeping in a place not meant for human habitation (e.g., living on the streets) and/or in an emergency homeless shelter. A disabling condition is defined as: diagnosable substance use disorder, serious mental illness, developmental disability, chronic physical illness, or disability including the co-occurrence of two or more of these conditions. A disabling condition limits an individual’s ability to work or perform one or more activities of daily living.” In addition, the individual must have lived in the Austin metro area for the past year.

CLARIFICATION: Couch-surfing, living with a friend or family member and/or not having a place in your own name does not constitute homelessness. All housing requests must go through the Coordinated Assessment process.

All potential Community First! Village residents will be required to complete the Coordinated Assessment, be fingerprinted and agree to a criminal background check processed by the FBI. To ensure that Community First! is addressing the problem of chronic homelessness in Austin, we will require potential residents to demonstrate proof of homeless dwelling for at least one year within the Austin metropolitan area. Here are more details on How to Apply for a Home at Community First! Village.

Mobile Loaves & Fishes participates in Coordinated Assessment as part of the application process for Community First! Village. If you’ve completed the Coordinated Assessment intake through another agency, you do not need to do it again. We will have access to your information.

Coordinated Assessment is an opportunity for you to inform multiple programs in the community that you would like some help finding housing. To complete the Coordinated Assessment, please contact one of the following three agencies:

Front Steps (The ARCH)
Address: 500 E 7th Street, Austin, TX 78701
Hours: Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday: 9am – 4pm / Tuesday: 9am – noon
Phone: (512) 305-4100

Salvation Army
Address: 501 E 8th Street, Austin, TX 78701
Hours: Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday: 9am – 4pm / Tuesday: 9am – 11am & 2pm – 4pm
Phone: (512) 476-1111

ECHO
Address: 1640 E. 2nd St., Side A, Austin, TX 78702
Hours: Monday-Friday: 9am – 4pm
Phone: (512) 234-3630

Coordinated Assessment is just one step in your housing search, so don’t stop here! If a program has an opening for which you qualify, they will attempt to contact you directly. Be absolutely certain that you have a way for us to reach you.

There is no need to contact assessment staff again unless you need to update your contact information (such as a phone number change or a new case manager). It is important for you to continue accessing every opportunity you possibly can.

Be prepared to discuss what you have tried recently to get yourself into housing: What has worked in the past? What hasn’t worked? What are your greatest resources that could help you get into housing? We recommend keeping a journal, if possible.

If you are in case management with a program now, continue to work with your caseworker on your housing goals. As part of the Coordinated Assessment, staff will provide you with a list of external resources that you can try to access on your own or with your case manager.

Please note that completing a Coordinated Assessment and starting the application process is not a guarantee of housing — it is just the first step in the process. For more details on qualifying criteria for living at Community First! Village, please visit: How to Apply for Home at Community First! Village. You may also contact the Austin Travis County Integral Care (ATCIC) Community First! Village team with additional questions at (512) 804-3264.

Yes, like any successful real estate housing development, there are full-time on-site property managers at Community First! Village. Full-time maintenance staff also is on-site at the property.

Individuals living in Community First! Village are required to follow three community covenants. Residents must:

  1. Pay rent on time
  2. Abide by civil law
  3. Follow the rules of the community itself (not unlike a homeowners association for a neighborhood)

Community First! Village has been developed with an approach similar to the Housing First! model, which believes an individual must first be adequately housed before important lifesaving services such as drug and alcohol rehabilitation would be effective. To go through rehab or receive other vital services only to be released back onto the streets is counterproductive. Mobile Loaves & Fishes has taken this approach a step further by emphasizing Community First!

At Community First! Village, we are providing more than just adequate housing. We are developing a community with revolutionary services and attention to an individual’s relational needs at a fraction of the cost of traditional housing initiatives. The emphasis at Community First! Village is on dignity, love, respect, abundance and acceptance. It is based on Scripture’s meaning of shalom, which describes a human at peace in all relationships:  with God, oneself, other people, and the natural world.

Please remember that the possession and distribution of controlled substances is against the law. We expect everyone living in Community First! Village to abide by the law. According to the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ Annual Report on Hunger and Homeless, 2006, 74% of the homeless surveyed are not substance abusers.

Each potential resident at Community First! Village will be required to complete the Coordinated Assessment intake, be fingerprinted and submit to a criminal background check processed by the FBI. Then, on a case-by-case basis, qualified personnel will review the applicant for their compatibility with Community First! Village and the community at large. Registered sex offenders are the only individuals who are strictly prohibited from living in Community First! Village.

There is a broad range of services available on-site to the residents of Community First! Village, including:

  • Full-time behavioral health case managers through Austin Travis County Integral Care (ATCIC)
  • Extensive primary healthcare services provided by the Community Care Collaborative
  • Home hospice and respite care
  • Micro-enterprise business opportunities through Mobile Loaves & Fishes’ Community Works program
  • Regular farmers market to provide residents with healthy, nutritious and free vegetables harvested from the Village’s many gardens

Capital Metro Bus Route 237 serves Community First! Village and the surrounding area between 7:00am and 6:00pm. The bus arrives and departs the Village on the hour during that time frame. Connection to downtown Austin via Route 37 can be made at Stop 1619 (7000 Manor & Susquehanna) near the Springfield HEB. Here is a link to the Cap Metro Schedule Page for the 237 route.

Mobile Loaves & Fishes has many volunteer opportunities and is grateful for your willingness to serve. We encourage you to visit our volunteer page to explore available opportunities.

We love volunteer groups! If your group has 5 or more people, please contact MLF’s Volunteer Coordinator at serve@mlf.org or 512.551.5417 to make arrangements.

For volunteer opportunities with the St. John Neumann truck ministry, please visit Volunteer with St. John Neumann.

We’re glad you asked! All volunteers are required to fill out a release form before serving with Mobile Loaves & Fishes. Please review and fill out our Volunteer Release Form here.

Mobile Loaves & Fishes has worked with a number of Eagle Scouts for projects that fit within our needs at Community First! Village. If you’d like to inquire about doing an Eagle Scout project, please contact MLF’s Volunteer Coordinator, Miranda Roberts, at miranda@mlf.org or 512.328.7299 x108.

On our online donation form, please select the Mobile Loaves & Fishes program or community you would like to support from the dropdown menu at the top of the form. If you prefer to give through mail with a personal check or through your charitable giving account, please send your donation to the main MLF address and simply indicate the community or program in the memo line. Please mail your check to:

Mobile Loaves & Fishes
903 S. Capital of Texas Highway
Austin, Texas 78746
Attn: Donna Emery

Absolutely! Leading a personal fundraising campaign is a great way to support Mobile Loaves & Fishes’ ministry – and much appreciated! Please click here to fill out a personal fundraising page request form, and we’ll get back to you with next steps. We’re grateful for your support!

We are grateful to individuals, organizations and businesses that hold fundraising events benefiting Mobile Loaves & Fishes. Funds raised during such events enable MLF to provide food, clothing and promote dignity to our homeless brothers and sisters in need. If you are interested in holding your own fundraising event, please click here to read our fundraising guidelines and fill out an Event Application. An authorized MLF representative must approve your Event Application before publishing the name or logo of Mobile Loaves & Fishes or promoting the event.

On MLF’s online donation form, please scroll down until you see a section titled “Honor or Memorial.” Fill out the details in this area before submitting your donation. Mobile Loaves & Fishes will send a card to the designated person or family member to let them know a donation was made in their name.

To make an in-kind donation of goods or services, please see MLF’s current list of needs on our In-Kind Donations page and contact the appropriate Mobile Loaves & Fishes program director to arrange for a drop-off date and time.

You bet! We like to refer to our recurring donors as Everyday Angels. These are the loyal individuals who support Mobile Loaves & Fishes with a monthly gift, enabling volunteers to bring relief and hope to those living on the streets. Everyday Angels give automatically from their credit card, providing dependable support for all of our programs. Please click here become an Everyday Angel with MLF, and thank you for helping us to serve Goodness – every day.

Donations made to Mobile Loaves & Fishes are non-refundable. Please contact us at 512.328.7299 within 30 days from the date of your donation if you identify an error in the amount of payment or to report unauthorized usage of your credit or debit card.

Yes, your donation is tax deductible. Mobile Loaves & Fishes is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

When making an online donation to Mobile Loaves & Fishes, please first be sure that you have filled out ALL REQUIRED FIELDS on the donation form. Required fields are denoted with an asterisk (*). Please also include your email address, as this will allow us to send you a receipt for your donation. If you have filled out all the fields and are still having trouble submitting the donation form, please contact us at info@mlf.org so we can further assist you.

Please contact Mobile Loaves & Fishes at info@mlf.org or 512-328-7299 to update your payment information. Please DO NOT send your credit card or bank information to MLF via email.

The Community First! model is built on the foundation of Genesis 2:15 – “The Lord God then took the man and settled him in the Garden of Eden to cultivate and care for it.”

With Mobile Loaves & Fishes’ Truck Ministry, we allow the broader community to move throughout areas of the metaphorical garden that they normally would never have found themselves in – street corners, homeless camps, alley ways, shelters, etc. In doing so, volunteers are able to use food as a conduit for connecting human to human, heart to heart and building relationships with the homeless men and women who they encounter on the streets.

Through such interactions with our homeless friends over the past two decades, Mobile Loaves & Fishes has come to the understanding that the single greatest cause of homelessness is a profound, catastrophic loss of family. It’s from this understanding that our vision emerged of building Community First! Village to welcome home individuals considered outcasts who had been despised and pushed to the fringe of society.

Once settled, it is inherent in humans to desire to be purposeful. It is our goal to mine that purpose in each individual, which we do through our Community Works program.

Here are some of our favorite books that you’ll find on the bookshelves of the Mobile Loaves & Fishes team:

A Spirituality of Fundraising
Henri Nouwen (Upper Room, 2011)

Beyond Homelessness: Christian Faith in a Culture of Displacement
Steven Bouma-Prediger and Brian Walsh (Eerdmans, 2008)

Circle Maker: Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears
Mark Batterson (Zondervan, 2011)

Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs,
Chapter 13: Batman’s Bad Call, pp. 168-186
Johann Hari (Bloomsbury, 2015)

Community and Growth
Jean Vanier (Paulist Press, 1979)

Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church
Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2005)

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t
Jim Collins (HarperBusiness, 2001)

Managing Ignatius: The Lunacy of Lucky Dogs and Life in the Quarter
Jerry E. Stahan (Broadway Books, 1999)

Radical Compassion: Finding Christ in the Heart of the Poor
Gary Smith (Loyola, 2002)

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action
Simon Sinek (Portfolio, 2011)

Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion
Gregory Boyle (Free Press, 2011)

The 5 Levels of Leadership: Proven Steps to Maximize Your Potential
John C. Maxwell (Center Street, 2013)

The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming
Henri Nouwen (Image Books, 1994)

You can join the email list for Mobile Loaves & Fishes by signing up here.

MLF’s logo is available for download in .png and .jpg formats here on our website. Please note, the Mobile Loaves & Fishes logos, other trademarks, service marks, photos or copyrighted materials must not be used on any materials (print or electronic) without express written consent of MLF. Please email MLF’s communications director, Thomas Aitchison, at thomas@mlf.org to inquire about permission for your project.

Please email MLF’s communications director, Thomas Aitchison, at thomas@mlf.org to discuss your specific requirements.  

Mobile Loaves & Fishes is committed to Donor Privacy.

We respect your privacy and do not rent, sell, or exchange our mailing lists.

We value your trust and assure you that we will always strive to be responsible in our management, truthful in our advertising, and cost-effective in our fundraising.

Mobile Loaves & Fishes has been serving the homeless since 1998, and we are continually working to ensure every dollar is used to its fullest for this purpose. Anything less would violate the trust we keep with you, our volunteers and those we serve, and most importantly, with God. We are committed to the highest standard of stewardship excellence. We will make every effort to honor any designation or preference you have stated.

Security of Donor Information

Donor information is stored within a donor management database within MLF. Access to the database is restricted to personnel with a legitimate business need to access or modify the information contained therein.

Sharing of Personal Information

Companies may be engaged by MLF to perform a variety of functions, such as assisting with donation collection, providing technical services for our Internet sites, etc. Such companies may have access to personal information if needed to perform certain functions. However, these companies may use such personal information only for the purpose of performing that function and may not use it for any other purpose.

To most efficiently use the resources you entrusted to us, we may disclose some personal information to select third parties in order to more effectively target our donor communications. MLF gathers personal information, such as first and last names, home addresses, e-mail addresses, phone numbers, credit card numbers, donations amounts and history, only when voluntarily submitted by you. Information of this kind is used to enable Mobile Loaves & Fishes to identify others interested in partnering with us to help serve the homeless. Information provided in donation history may include statistics such as total number of donations and value of donations for a set period of time. This information disclosure is done very carefully to ensure that your personal information is protected.

MLF reserves the right to use or disclose any information as needed to satisfy any law, regulation or legal request, to protect the integrity of the site, to fulfill your requests, or to cooperate in any law enforcement investigation or an investigation on a public safety matter.

Other than as provided in this privacy policy, MLF does not sell, transfer or disclose personal information to third parties.

Cookies

As with most other Internet sites, our web servers utilize “cookies” to track a user’s activity within our site as well as record the IP address of each visitor to this site. A cookie is a small data file that is stored on your computer. A cookie contains a unique identifying feature that allows our computer to recognize you when you return to the Mobile Loaves & Fishes site. The recorded IP address tells us which domain you visited from (for instance, google.com), but not your email address or other private and personal information. We use the information we record to help diagnose problems with our servers, to administer this website more effectively, and to gather broad demographic information about what domains our visitors come from and their behavior on our site. For example, we track the total number of visitors to our site on an anonymous, aggregate basis.

Use the options in your Internet browser if you do not wish to receive a cookie or if you wish to set your browser to notify you when you receive a cookie. Click on the “Help” section of your browser to learn how to change your cookie preferences. If you disable all cookies, you may not be able to take advantage of all the features of the MLF web site.

We use Google services, such as Google Analytics, as well as other third party vendors that place first-party and/or third-party cookies on a browser across our websites. To opt out of Google tracking, please visit their opt-out page. We also use Google AdWords “remarketing” to market our sites across the web. We place a cookie on a browser, and then Google reads these cookies and may serve an ad on a 3rd party site. You may opt out of this ad serving on Google’s opt out page.

If you are concerned about 3rd party cookies served by networks, you should also visit the Network Advertising Initiative opt-out page. In some cases, our site uses securely encrypted contribution response forms for visitors who choose to use these forms to provide information, request information, and make donations. We collect your willingly submitted contact information (such as your email address), unique identifiers, and financial information (such as a credit card type, number, and expiration date). Contact information from these response forms is used to process donations, as well as to provide receipts and other information about Mobile Loaves & Fishes to our supporters. The visitor’s contact information is also used to get in touch with the visitor when necessary in order to resolve customer service issues or questions. Users may readily opt out of receiving future communications; see the “Opt-Out or Modify Your Information” section below. Financial information that is collected is used to bill the user for donations pledged. Unique identifiers may be collected from website visitors to assist in matching current donation information with donor history in our record systems.

Those who choose to register through various “guestbook”-type features on our site may choose to give us certain contact information (such as their email address). These features may also request optional demographic information (such as zip code, age, or income level). Unless you opt out, we may use this contact information to send you additional information about Mobile Loaves & Fishes and its programs. Contact information you voluntarily provide may also be used to contact you when necessary in order to resolve customer service issues or questions. You may readily opt out of receiving future communications; see the “Opt-Out or Modify Your Information” section below.

Our online surveys may ask visitors for contact information (such as their email address) as well as a variety of demographic and practical questions. We may use contact data from our surveys to send the user information about MLF. The user’s contact information may also be used to contact the visitor when necessary. Users may opt-out of receiving future mailings; see the “Opt-Out or Modify Your Information section below.

Links to Other Sites

We may offer links to sites that are not operated by MLF. If you visit one of these linked sites, you should review their privacy and other policies. We are not responsible for the policies and practices of other companies.

Opt-Out or Modify Your Information

Most points on our site provide users the opportunity to opt-out of receiving communications from us at the point where we request contact information about the visitor. There are, however, a few places where users do not have the opportunity to opt-out of receiving communications. Should you wish to opt-out, please choose one of the following methods to opt-out of receiving further communications from us or to modify information previously provided.

  1. Email your request to info@mlf.org
  2. Call the following telephone number: 1-512-328-7299.
  3. Request by postal mail to the following address: Mobile Loaves & Fishes, 903 S. Capital of TX Hwy Austin, TX 78746

When contacting us to change your status, be sure to include any information that would help us identify you on our lists, such as complete contact information (name, postal address, telephone number, and email address), or information about venues in which you gave us your contact information online.

Changes to This Policy

From time to time, it may be necessary for MLF to change its privacy policy without advance notice, so we suggest that you check here periodically. Rest assured, however, that any changes will not be retroactively applied and will not alter how we handle previously collected information. Changes to this policy were last made on August 5, 2013.

Questions regarding This Policy

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, or your dealings with our Web site, you can contact us by any of the methods listed under “Opt-Out or Modify Your Information.”

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