The Austin Chronicle

Innovating an End to Austin Street Life in Community First, A Home for the Homeless

Getting a second chance at a home

By Nina Hernandez, March 8, 2019, Screens

At Community First! Village, a self-sustaining development in East Austin where the formerly homeless live in RVs and tiny homes, everyone you meet has a story. All bound together by what founder Alan Graham calls a "catastrophic loss of family," the villagers support themselves and each other through work that keeps the entire community churning. In Community First, A Home for the Homeless, producer and director Layton Blaylock explores some of the individuals that make this incredible community into what it is and their harrowing journeys from the streets to homes of their own.

As Blaylock no doubt quickly found, these new lives don't come without growing pains or rewards. Settled into a tiny home or camper, away from the noise and constant danger of the streets, new residents have trouble sleeping in their new beds. Some camp on the floor of their new digs as they adjust. It might also take a bit of trial and error to decide on a job between the art house, blacksmith forge, woodshop, gardens, and auto center, where residents learn or use skills they already have to earn rent money – which everyone must pay.

As in most communities, people fall in love, get married, and consolidate their homes – making room for more villagers, as one such bride points out in the film. Many face chronic illnesses or mobility issues that make even life in this caring and helpful community a challenge. As Blaylock tells those stories, he has Graham, who imagined and ultimately executed this vision, explain how all of those pieces fit together to form the vibrant, bustling Community First! Village.

For more on the Community First! Village, including Nina Hernandez’s week living in the community, read “Good Neighbors,” Nov. 16, 2018.

Community First, A Home for the Homeless


Saturday, March 9, 10:45am, Rollins Theatre
Monday, March 11, 9pm, AFS Cinema
Saturday, March 16, 12:30pm, Zach Theatre

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