A development of Mobile Loaves & Fishes, Community First! Village is a 51-acre, master-planned community that provides affordable, permanent housing for over 200 formerly homeless men and women.

Everyone pays rent that ranges from $225 to $430 per month, making each person carry their own weight. Many Community First! residents are employed by the various on-site enterprises, including a farm, a woodworking shop, and an outdoor movie theater. Beyond 200 full-time residents, their little town also hosts volunteers from church groups, art class students, even tourists welcomed as AirBnB guests in an assortment of stylishly designed “tiny homes” in an effort to bring more people into regular contact and conversation with the homeless.

Maintenance of these shared spaces also provides a source of employment for residents. Earning anywhere from $350 to $900 a month, they clean the kitchens and bathrooms, and contribute to the general upkeep of the village itself. Community residents earned nearly a million dollars of “dignified income” in 2017 and 2018.

This model works for so many reasons, including the focus on each individual’s participation and growth, and of course, the therapeutic community aspect of the program – in both name and design. Community First! truly lives a “people first” model.

Community First! leadership made an early decision to avoid government funding given its Housing First strings. While they did not lose money in government’s pendulum shift to Housing First, they could do so much more of the “good” described above if they had access to non-Housing First government resources.