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Frequently Asked Questions

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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.

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 supportive services and amenities to help address 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.

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.

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 or near 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.

Community First! Village offers an innovative mix of housing options. Phase I of the development includes 120 micro-homes, 100 RVs and 20 canvas-sided cottages. Once at capacity—which is currently expected to happen in 2019—Phase I will accommodate just more than 200 formerly homeless men and women.

Community First! Village embarked on its first major expansion in October 2018 with the addition of 24 more acres. Once complete, Phase II of the Village will provide room for an additional 200 micro-homes and 110 RVs. Phase II of the development is expected to be completed in 2022. Combined, Phase I and Phase II of Community Fist! Village will provide homes for nearly 500 men and women who have been living on the streets of Austin.

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.

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

An individual who is chronically homeless includes any person with a disability who has been living in a place not meant for human habitation for the last 12 months continuously or on at least four occasions in the last three years where those occasions cumulatively total at least 12 months. 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.

All potential Community First! Village residents are 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.

Please see our ‘How to Apply for a Home’ page for a description and more details on the process.

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 and relationships in all that we do.

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 is 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.

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.

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 Integral Care.
  • Extensive primary healthcare services provided by the Community Care Collaborative.
  • Intensive Outpatient Program through Austin Recovery to treat substance use disorders.
  • 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

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.

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.

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.

No, the opening of Community First! Village has not resulted in Austin becoming a magnet to the chronically homeless population. It has, however, helped position Austin as a leader nationally in terms of what is possible when a community comes together to address an issue as serious as homelessness. We desire to see Community First! Village become an example across the country of how to innovatively address homelessness, and we offer quarterly symposia to help educate and empower other individuals who are interested in bringing a similar vision to their own communities.

Worth noting, we do 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.

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).

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

We offer public tours of Community First! Village on select Wednesdays and Saturdays each month. You can view available dates and sign up for a tour here.

Please note that if you are a prospective resident wanting to live in Community First! Village, the public tours are not the ones designed specifically for you. Interested Resident Tours happen on the 1st and 3rd Wednesdays of every month at 10:00am. See more details on our Apply for a Home page.

Start by perusing the Mobile Loaves & Fishes website. More about Community First! Village can be found here. You should also check out our ‘In the News’ page for a listing of stories about the Village. 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 and how you can bring a similar vision to your own community. More information about our symposiums can be found here on our website: Symposium for Goodness’ Sake.

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)

Unfortunately, we don’t currently have the capability to deliver the Symposium online. We think that spending time onsite at Community First! Village is the best way to truly experience the community, and we’ve designed a three-day learning opportunity to help those who are interested in this model to learn more. 

We’ve had many individuals attend a Symposium who haven’t yet secured their nonprofit status, and they’ve used a variety of means to raise the funds for the trip to Austin. Some have used GoFundMe or other crowdfunding platforms, while others have reached out to friends and loved ones directly for support. Community First! Village is an $18 million undertaking, and each year we have to raise much of the operating revenue because rent only covers a small portion of the funds needed to care for our neighbors. Thus, the ability to raise funds is an important piece of pursuing our overall vision. We encourage you to look at the Symposium as your first investment in the future of your own community.

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 visit our Group Serve Days page to make arrangements or contact MLF’s Volunteer Coordinator at serve@mlf.org.

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 Trina Bolfing at trina@mlf.org.

Volunteers are the backbone of Mobile Loaves & Fishes’ food truck ministry. Our truck runs operate out of different locations based on our partnerships with supporting truck communities. Specific opportunities vary from one MLF truck community to another. Please see our Truck Ministry volunteer page for next steps on getting plugged in.

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.

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

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.

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

You can select Greatest Need or Community First! Village on the dropdown menu on our online donation form. Donations to specific truck communities can be made on the MLF Truck Ministry donation page where you can select your preferred community in the dropdown menu. If you prefer to give through mail with a personal check or through your charitable giving account, simply indicate the community or program in the memo line. Please mail your check to:

Mobile Loaves & Fishes
9301 Hog Eye Road, Suite 950
Austin, TX 78724
Attn: Donna Emery

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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