About three dozen guests joined Brown County Home Solutions’s executive director, board members and several pastors Thursday morning to dedicate what will become Legacy Village in Brownwood — a community of small houses intended to address homelessness.
The small houses — ranging from 475 to 550 square feet — will be built on the property of the former Avenue D Baptist Church, 1101 Ave. D. The church voted earlier to disband and gave its building and property to the nonprofit coalition, also known as BCHS.
Ground has been broken, and a foundation has been laid for the first of the small homes.
“This has been a long time coming, not just for the organization, but for the community as well,” James Fuller, outgoing chairman of the BCHS board, said as the dedication began.
Prayer, singing and remarks that highlighted a legacy that continues after Avenue D Baptist Church disbanded were among the dedication’s highlights.
The organization ’s purpose, according to its Facebook page, is ending homelessness in Brown County by assisting homeless individuals and families or individuals at risk of homelessness to quickly regain stability into permanent housing.”
BCHS began in 2013, and its executive director, Angelia Bostick said earlier the organization has three objectives:
• Prevent homelessness by keeping people in their homes.
• Rapidly rehouse people if they lose their homes.
• Provide temporary housing as the homeless obtain “permanent, self-sustainable” housing.
Bostick, speaking at the dedication, said BCHS had to determine as it was being organized, “what would our mission look like? Who would we serve? Homelessness is very complicated.
“Is it going to be just veterans? Is it going to be addicts? Is it going to be transients? It was always, ‘we’re going to serve our citizens.’ It is just going to be for our folks in Brown County, and we want to do it in a way that maintains the dignity of the people that we were serving.
“We have evolved in what we thought we would do … when we do something, we want to do it right and we want to do it well.”
BCHS’s desire is to treat and see people “with the eyes of Jesus.”
‘People who need help’
Don Fawcett, network missionary at Heart of Texas Baptist Area, said the construction of Legacy Village is “good for the community. This is what just communities do. They care about people that are hurting, people on the fringes, people who need help.
“You’ll see that this was a legacy of faith and a legacy of hope that converged to make this a reality.”
Fawcett said Bostick had a vision to help the homeless at a time when Avenue D Baptist Church was struggling to continue its work in the community.
Church’s legacy continues
“The first thing we want to do is recognize the faith of (the church),” Fawcett said. Fawcett recalled preaching in the church before it disbanded and speaking later with a group of church members on the topic of disbanding the church.
“That’s not an easy conversation to have,” Fawcett said. “All the emotions begin to surface, because there’s a lot of grief in the closing of a church.”
The conversation recalled the church’s “great leaders … the spiritual events that took place in a community of faith — the baptisms, weddings and the laying of loved ones to rest, Fawcett said.
“What emerged in that conversation was really a declaration of faith, and I remember some the things said — that there was a desire that ministry would continue to live on in this location. … so Avenue D, your faith in that moment brought this to fruition today. Faith did not die when you voted to dissolve this church.”
Not a pipe dream
Fawcett said Bostick’s vision of helping the homeless “is not a pipe dream but is rooted in God’s revelation that God cares about people, he loves people, he wants to minister to people and he desires for us to be his hands and feet.
“This ministry is one based on hope, and its one also that gives hope to people in this community. There are people that are hoping for something like this. They need something like this, and this is a provision for them, a legacy for hope.”
Fawcett said he knows Bostick would not rejoice just because a new organization has bee founded but would rejoice “because we’re being a more compassionate community, a place that cares for the broken and hurting.”
Operating in the red
In an interview a year ago, Bostick said BCHS was ready to start accepting donations. BCHS has been operating in the red for the past two years, Bostick said after the dedication.
“We hope that changes soon,” Bostick said. “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.”
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.
History of BCHS
According to a press release from Brown County Home Solutions (BCHS):
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 people have wondered if there really is a homeless problem in Brown County. The answer is “yes,” BCHS said in the press release.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
• Brown County Home solutions is a local 501c3 organization organized to address local homelessness through prevention.
• Legacy Village is one solution.
• 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).
• 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: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: bchstx.org Office: Family Services Center, 901 Ave. B Suite 108A