Community First! Village, a 27-acre master planned community just outside Austin, Texas, where more than 200 people who were once chronically homeless live in tiny homes and RVs. Everyone who lives at Community First! pays rent, ranging from $225 to $430 per month; many residents are employed on-site.
This is the idea that fuels Community First! Village. “They have a saying upstairs,” Devore says. “Housing will never cure homelessness, but community will.”
That’s a variation on the “housing first” model of addressing homelessness, which focuses on getting people into permanent, safe housing before dealing other issues like unemployment or addiction. “Community first” takes that idea a step further, with a singular focus on providing housing within community.
AirBnb guests staying in an assortment of stylishly designed tiny homes and an Airstream trailer that are all listed as vacation rentals—part of the village’s mission to bring more people into regular contact and conversation with the homeless.
The village’s design has been optimized for socialization: There are no backyards, only front porches, adorned with potted plants, patio furniture, and the occasional bike. Without plumbing or running water, the tiny homes are grouped around shared bathroom, shower, and laundry facilities. Residents regularly gather for neighborhood dinners in one of four outdoor kitchens, open 24/7.
The number-one rule is that you have to pay rent, which covers roughly 40 percent of the village’s $5 million operating budget. Miss a payment, and you will be asked to leave. Graham says that doesn’t happen much—the retention rate at Community First! is 86 percent.