A dedication ceremony for Brown County Home Solution’s Legacy Village, a community of 16 small houses that will be built to address homelessness, will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday at 1101 Ave. D.
    According to a press release from Brown County Home Solutions (BCHS):
    BCHS is a local non-profit, whose goal is to address homelessness in Brown County through prevention, advocacy and sustainable housing solutions.
    BCHS has broken ground for the first of 16 small houses that will be built on the property at 1101 Ave. D. The property was given to the organization by the Avenue D Baptist Church congregation prior to their disbanding. The name of the site will be Legacy Village.

Continuing a legacy
    The Ave D church served this community for more than half a century doing God’s work. Their ministry impacted individuals, families and the future. Their final act was to leave a legacy so that their work, living out the Gospel, would continue and that hope would be given “to the least of these through the work of BCHS,” said Angelia Bostick, director.
    Brown County Home Solutions began in 2013 as a coalition of agencies who were working with the homeless in Brown County to seek solutions to the problem. The impetus began when J.R. Williams contacted Donna Harris and Bostick, former directors of The Salvation Army and Good Samaritan Ministries, to see if the old Juvenile detention center on the north side of town might work as a homeless shelter.
    There were several community meetings of citizens interested in the issue with discussions and input. From the coalition group a 501(c)3 organization was formed and a board of directors began work on how to effectively, efficiently and uniquely address homelessness in Brown county.

Are there homeless in Brown County?
    Some folks have wondered if there really is a homeless problem in Brown County. The answer is yes!
    According to data collected yearly by public schools, there are currently 68 homeless students in county schools. Good Samaritan Ministries serves an average of 30 homeless each month with food. The Salvation Army estimates five to 10 of their diners each month are homeless and New Beginnings Church sees numerous homeless as they pass through town or end up here.
    Homelessness is a very complex issue and the methods of addressing it are wide-ranging.
    “This has been a journey of discovery and exploration for what would work best for Brown County,” Bostick said. “What works for the inner city will not work in a more rural setting. We have been intentionally specific to focus on what would work for our community and we have made a commitment that we will not be afraid to do things different and unique.”

Original plan wasn’t doable
    After the gift of the church building and adjoining two lots, BCHS thought it would be able to convert the church into a dorm-like shelter. Upon further inspections, zoning and cost evaluations, it was determined to be a non-starter.         At a board meeting a couple of years ago, board members discussed what other options BCHS might have, and one of the members suggested “tiny houses.”
    BCHS has the land and proper zoning, and the board decided to look into building tiny houses? Tiny houses such as those seen on HGTV are not currently permitted by city code, but the board has worked with Swan Engineering to design small houses of 475 to 550 square feet.
    The houses will be open concept with a front porch and full kitchen and bathroom.
    The BCHS board has continued to meet monthly, seeking solutions for neighbors and community.
     Last year, upon hearing of the board’s plans from a board member, a local businessman gave a $30,000 donation for the project! Also, Coggin Avenue Baptist Church has made a pledge to help with the building and construction cost of one of the houses and Cody Smith, building trades teacher at Brownwood High School, has said he wants his students to build a house next fall.

Hoping for churches’ support
    BCHS is hoping and praying that now that it has a solid, workable plan that the community, churches and businesses come alongside with financial support.
    “We have been operating in the red for the
past two years,” Bostick said. “We hope that changes soon. We will have increased utility and insurance costs as each house is built and then occupied. Donations are tax-deductible since we are a non-profit.”
    BCHS will continue to collaborate with community agencies. Even though BCHS hasn’t had a place to house people, BCHS has been working with clients, making referrals and doing case management for those currently homeless or those at risk of homelessness.

44 families
     So far this year, BCHS has been contacted by 44 families. Some of them have found permanent housing.             Recently BCHS worked with a man who became homeless due to being the victim of a crime.
     He was referred to BCHS by an officer of the court. BCHS helped him navigate the system to get a new birth certificate and ID and to apply for housing assistance. A month ago he moved into his apartment.
     He doesn’t fit the stereotype that most people think of when they hear “homeless.” He is not an addict. He is not a beggar, and he has worked at the same job for more than er 15 years. He volunteers to help others. He is a neighbor who is now formerly homeless.

Caring and dignity
    BCHS has an opportunity to leave a legacy of caring and dignity for the community and for neighbors who find themselves in need and are willing to do the hard work of getting up and moving forward.
    In the past, the desire has been for people to get their lives straightened out before being housed — and that’s backwards, BCHS said. It’s nearly impossible to get straightened out and  clean while living on the streets, under a bridge or in an abandoned building.
    Studies have proven that homeless and formerly homeless are much more successful if they are housed first. It provides the stability they need to work on the issues that led to their homelessness in the first place.
    Donations can be made online at www.bcshtx.org through PayPal or mailed to PO Box 952, Brownwood, TX 76804. Donations are tax-deductible as allowed by law.

Quick facts
    • Brown County Home solutions is a local 501c3 organization organized to address local homelessness through prevention.
    • Legacy Village is one solution.
    • Faith-based.
    • Led by a board of directors: James Fuller (Brownwood Police Department), Toni Hill (McCoy’s Building), Bettie Evans (Christian Women’s Job Corps), Shenika Arredondo (Central Texas Opportunities), Lynda Waldrop (Waldrop Construction), Ethel Cooney (First Central Credit Union), Tony Cruz (Center for Life Resources), Glenn Williamson (Coggin Ave Baptist Church), Billy Owings (Family Services Center) and Steve Cantrell (3M).
     • Building dedication at 11 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 26 at 1101 Ave. D
    •  Legacy Village will eventually hold 16 small houses of 475-550 square feet.
     • Tenants will be Brown County residents.
    • Tenants will pay rent.
    • Tenants will go through a background check.
    • BCHS collaborate and coordinates with other local non-profits, governmental and faith organizations.
    •  Phone: 325-998-2425
    Email: connect@bchstx.org
    Website: bchstx.org
    Office: Family Services Center, 901 Ave. B Suite 108A