Alan Graham on Community First and Tiny Houses

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This actually is a hard post to start because there is so much to say about Alan Graham and his amazing work helping our homeless friends. Back in July of 2009, Alan was partly responsible for talking me into taking the risk of the traveling around the U.S. to document homelessness for the first time. We had just connected on social media and he kept inviting me, even offering to cover some of the expenses. Thing was, Alan knew exactly how amazing his vision was and once I arrived, he knew I’d become an evangelist for his work.

Seems like just yesterday that I taped this video of Alan showing me around one of his catering trucks . Although having a small army of food trucks to help build relationships is pretty amazing, it’s giving our homeless friends real dignity and the power of choice that is the lesson Alan’s work taught me.

2009: Lee Leffingwell, Alan Graham and Mark Horvath

2009: Lee Leffingwell, Alan Graham and Mark Horvath

During that first visit Alan showed me the master plans for a plot of land he had the vision of transforming into what he calls “Community First Village”. At the time, it was all on paper and in Alan’s heart. He had already been using a variation of a rapid rehousing model to get our chronic homeless friends off the streets into their own RV, but acquiring a large parcel of land had yet to happen. As I type this, I remembered Alan pitching Lee Leffingwell, Austin’s Mayor, who joined us out on the streets.

Each year as I visit SXSW in Austin I always make it a point to spend some time with Alan, and each year he has something new and amazing going on. Last year I posted this story: At SXSW Helping Homeless People Is Delicious With Street Treats , that highlighted Alan’s continued creating social enterprise ways for our friends on the street to generate revenue.

This year, Alan was able to tour me around the beginnings of “Community First Village”! There really no words to describe how happy I am for him and our homeless friends, who will soon be calling the place “home”. I know this vision has been in Alan’s heart for years and there has been a few setbacks in trying to make it all happen, but there is no stopping now what may be the coolest model in fighting homelessness I have ever seen.

One might call this a Tiny Home community, but Alan was quick to correct me that tiny homes have been around for a very long time and are nothing new. Ten years ago Alan housed a homeless man in an RV and he started to dream about a place where people could not only get a roof over their head and a meal, but find healing. That vision has now grown to a 27 acre master-planned community that will provide affordable, sustainable housing and a supportive community for the disabled, chronically homeless in Central Texas.

While I was visiting, a church youth group was building a chapel for the community. You only have to spend a moment with Alan to know he is a Follower of Jesus. To me, this is the model more faith based services should follow. Each and every person, no matter of religious beliefs or sexual orientations, can become part of the Community First Village. Church services and places for healing are offered, but are never mandated. Everyone still is allowed the dignity of choice!

 


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