AUSTIN (KXAN) — The effort to end homelessness in Austin received a big boost Tuesday from the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation.
The foundation pledged $38 million to help build homes to house those experiencing homelessness, both adults and youth. The bulk of the money, $36.6 million, will go toward Multiplying Goodness, the capital campaign to build an expansion to Mobile Loaves and Fishes’ Community First! Village.
“As Austin grows, it’s more important than ever that we care for those most vulnerable in our communities,” said Susan Dell, co-founder and board chairperson of the foundation. “By coming together as a community, we can provide those experiencing homelessness in Central Texas with the dignity they deserve through stable housing and the opportunity to experience community again.”
Alan Graham, founder and CEO of Mobile Loaves & Fishes, said he was stunned by the financial backing provided by the Dells this Giving Tuesday. The foundation is working toward a $150 million goal to help assist the Community First! Village as it continues to expand its footprint in east Austin.
“Frankly, it was emotionally stunning,” Graham said. “Completely out of left field — not expected on our part. It was emotional.”
Earmarked for this $150 million funding is phases 3 and 4 of Community First!. The development’s expansion is set to begin construction in 2022 and will provide an additional 1,400 homes for people exiting chronic homelessness. The development is currently in its second phase, according to the project’s website.
An additional $1 million will go toward Foundation Communities to help build 100 units on Community First! Village property on Burleson Road, and $400,000 will go to LifeWorks to help provide housing for youth exiting homelessness. Travis County commissioners approved $35 million to go toward the Burleson expansion in September by using money from the American Rescue Plan Act. Commissioners approved a plan that funnels $110 million total to provide supportive housing throughout the area.
Individuals living in Travis County for at least one year who have experienced chronic homelessness are eligible to apply for Community First! housing. Requirements for residents include the ability to pay rent, either through social security funding, disability benefits, an off-site job or on-site employment.
Graham said the organization aims to address chronic homelessness through a multifaceted approach, with on-site employment and health resources available.
“[Homelessness] is a communitywide issue,” Graham said. “It’s a communitywide pandemic and we need the entire community to come in [and support this initiative] with us. It takes a village to build a village.”
The donation comes on Giving Tuesday, a worldwide initiative that encourages people to donate money to charities and nonprofit organizations following Thanksgiving.