Possibly the Best Field Trip in the History of Engineering — Anjali Mani

Last Tuesday, the sophomore segment of the Engineering pathway went to a trailer park, but not just any trailer park. If you are reading this blog, chances are you know about Project Ventura, our mission to remodel and “greenify” a 1970’s trailer, and Ms. Jo has been rather intent on trailers for the entire year, which made this field trip an interesting way to round out the entire project.
Mobile Loaves and Fishes is a program in Austin that is dedicated to helping those in need. The president of the program is Alan Graham, who has been dedicated to aiding the chronically homeless for years. This particular element of Mobile Loaves and Fishes is called Community First and is dedicated to giving the chronically homeless in Austin the opportunity of affordable housing and a supportive community. This affordable housing is found in several forms, a “tiny” house designed by UT architecture students, a remodeled airstream trailer, various RVs and other similar structures. These homes can be rented out for anywhere from $3- $6.5 a day.
However, Community First is about far more than just tiny living and affordable accommodations. Community First is primarily about building, well, a sense of community that addresses homelessness through relationships. Partnered with Genesis Gardens, a sustainable microfarming program that believes in the healing power of taking care of another as well as yourself, and the Rework Project that helps, in Mr. Graham’s words “talented people who can’t go through life the ‘normal’ way”, Community First is a multi-dimensional community building, supportive environment for the chronically homeless. Mr. Graham describes Community First as a “promised land”, which is an accurate description considering the waiting list is far greater than the space currently available.
Community First will be located on 27 acres of land near the Austin Rodeo grounds and will consist of a church, a microfarm, a large workshop and medical facilities as well as house over 200 people. This program is in desperate need for funding, Mr. Graham estimates that the construction time will be approximately nine months, and the cost will be somewhere near $6 million dollars.
Our engineering class visited a model of Community First that held examples of renovated housing units, a sample Genesis Garden complete with fascinating aquaponics, a large chicken coop, a very pregnant rabbit, a small tilapia fish farm and adorable kittens. This small unit was a remarkable glimpse of the vision of Community First that is close to becoming a reality. I urge you to visit the Mobile Loaves and Fishes website at http://www.mlf.org/communityfirst to become more aware of the incredible movement in our own neighborhood to create a caring, nurturing community.


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