With a new executive director in place, work on Phase 1 of Brown County Home Solutions’ Legacy Village continues, with completion of the first phase — which will consist of four “tiny homes” — hoped for by May.

Linda Heitman, a Houston native, started working as executive director on Jan. 26. Heitman previously lived in Fort Stockton and has been in Brown County since May 2016. Before taking the job with Brown County Home Solutions (BCHS), Heitman worked in a Brownwood certified public accountant office.

BCHS is a nonprofit organization created to help the homeless, and Legacy Village will be a community of 16 small homes. It is located on the property of the former Avenue D Baptist Church, 1105 Ave. D. BCHS receives funds from donations and grants.

The homes are intended as “a helping hand up,” and clients of BCHS will pay a graduated rent to live there.

One home has been completed and is occupied. Units 2 and 3 are comprised of a duplex, which is nearly finished, with trim work and painting remaining.

Unit 4 will hopefully be completed and occupied by May.

“We need volunteers, Heitman said. “We need people to come do trim work and paint. We also need donations of household goods because we provide these homes completely furnished and stocked. We need decorators. We need funds to purchase appliances.”

BCHS has two components, Heitman said.

“Legacy Village is of course the most known — the tiny house community,” Heitman said. “And that is our main project.

“But another focus that we have is helping people who are at risk for becoming homeless, helping them to keep from becoming homeless. And we do that through rent assistance, utilities, emergency food, helping them find resources in the community. That section is called community assistance.”

Heitman’s desire to help people in need is traced to her experience working in low income property management in West Texas as well as the struggles of some of her family members.

When Heitman lived in Fort Stockton, she worked for an income-based property management company. “I just saw so much and tried to help those that I could,” Heitman said. “You were limited as to what you could do.

“I looked at it as ministry. I ministered to as many people as I could and helped them learn how to make better choices. Some of them I was able to help, and a lot of them I wasn’t.”

Heitman grew tired of West Texas and looked for some property to buy. Her son lived in Abilene, and she looked for property to buy. Heitman found property at Lake Brownwood, liked the area and moved here.

Heitman learned about the Legacy Village project and thought “how cool is that.” She initially had an opportunity to work for BCHS last summer but the timing wasn’t right for her.

“The vision that they have — their whole vision — is about giving people a hand up, and I’m all about that,” Heitman said.

“I think the tiny house community is an amazing project, where it actually helps the homeless transition back into productive society.”

Heitman has a daughter who attends Bangs High School. Heitman attends New Beginnings Church, where she is familiar with the work that church’s pastor, Kelly Crenshaw, has done to help the homeless.

“Pastor Kelly is very involved with the homeless community,” Heitman said.

Crenshaw helped start the Brownwood House of Refuge, which has the goal of “getting them off the street and to a safe place for a few months,” Heitman said. “He gets them off the street, helps them to find a job, and then they can stay there for a short period of time to kind of help them get back on their feet.

“I see Legacy Village as the next step up. This is to me this is just the next logical step.”

Heitman said she is in the process of becoming a licensed minister, and her job at BCHS is “a natural ministry fit.

“Jesus said we’re always going to have the poor with us,” Heitman said. “What an awesome opportunity to be able to take that a step further and help people learn better choices and give them a hand up so that they can come back into society and not just repeat the cycle.”

BCHS is matched with clients through several methods including referrals from the Texas Health and Human Services, Heitman said.

“People contact us through Facebook, and they can contact us directly,” Heitman said. “There is an intake process where I interview them and see exactly what their needs are, what their situation is and what is it going to take to help them, if we’re  able to help them.

“And sometimes we don’t have the resources that they need but we can help them to find them.”

Heitman is working out of an office at the former Family Services center building, but the hope is to convert the former Avenue D church into use for office space and other functions.

“We want to have a community center for classes, financial planning, interviewing skills, job counseling, “Heitman said.

“We want it to be a complete community where we can provide all the different assistances — have a community garden, teach healthy eating habits, just be really a comprehensive community to be able to help these people to learn how to make better choices. If they don’t learn how to make better choices, they’re going to end up right back where they were.”