AUSTIN, Texas - As the election to decide the camping ban in Austin draws closer, a small neighborhood dedicated to permanent supportive housing announced it is adding hundreds of houses for the homeless.
Nestled in northeastern Travis County, Community First! Village is home to 220 formerly homeless people, like Tim Shea who nonprofit Mobile Loaves & Fishes says is the first in the nation to live in a 3D-printed home.
"It's a gorgeous place," said Shea. "It has very high ceilings so it feels like it's twice as big as it is."
Shea says he'd been on and off the streets before finding Community First when it opened in late 2015. "I had been homeless off and on for many years as a heroin addict, for over 30 years," he said.
Mobile Loaves & Fishes announced they are expanding, adding two new phases, a combined 127 additional acres. 1400 homes will be added, bringing the total to 1900 homes once complete.
Last November, the Downtown Austin Alliance made its fourth $200,000 donation to Mobile Loaves & Fishes for the Community First! Village, dedicated to expanding Phases II, III and IV.
"Primarily this has all been funded privately," said MLF founder and CEO Alan Graham. "The city has been a great partner in a number of different areas in terms of development fee waivers and the county."
The announcement is made amid a hot-button political debate on reinstating or keeping the citywide camping ban lifted.
"We completely understand the anxiety of all sides of what's going on in the city and our answer to that is this," Graham said, gesturing towards plans for Phases III and IV. "What we try to do is orient people to the banquet table around this particular issue of homelessness."
"The only thing that Proposition B does is impose a criminal fine and potential jail time, that is not the answer," Austin Mayor Steve Adler said.
The mayor says he hopes voters show up in droves May 1st to voice their opinion on the camping issue, but ultimately what both sides agree on is that the bottom line solution will always be permanent supportive housing
"I think it's really about coalescing people around a common vision," Adler said. "Part of that vision has got to include innovation."
Phases III and IV will not break ground for about another year as Graham says they still have to get permits through the city.