Walking through the interior of the former Avenue D Baptist Church Saturday morning, Linda Heitman, executive director of Brown County Home Solutions, said she has “big plans” for the organization’s effort to help the homeless.
“Big plans, big needs,” Brownwood businessman Hank Hunter echoed as he accompanied Heitman through the building.
The former church is on the site of the Legacy Village, where work — much of it volunteer labor — continues on the first phase of a community of 16 “tiny homes.”
A one-bedroom unit has been complete and has been occupied by a man for several months. Units two and three — a one-bedroom and a two-bedroom duplex — are nearly complete and the residents for those units have been selected.
Unit 4, also a one-bedroom, still needs “a lot” of work,” Heitman said.
Hunter is planning to sponsor, through his Texas Clean business, one of the units and provide items that are needed to make it a home.
Jim Maxwell, pastor of Freedom Fellowship in Early, and his wife, Anita, were also at the site. Maxwell said his church is considering sponsoring another of the units.
“Awesome. Awesome,” Maxwell repeated as the Maxwells and Hunter walked around the Legacy Village site and listened as Hietman explained the concept.
“It’s a good vision,” Anita Maxwell said.
Texas Custom Interiors has donated and installed granite countertops, Heitman said.
An open house for Legacy Village that was rained out in April has been rescheduled for Saturday, June 15, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Plans are to convert the former church building into a community center that contains space for an office and counseling, as well as classroom space for topics including financial planning and interviewing skills, and space for an inclement weather shelter.
“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,” Heitman said earlier. “If they don’t learn how to make better choices, they’re going to end up right back where they were.”
The building needs repairs including an electrical upgrade.
Heitman said the occupants of the two-bedroom unit will be a single mother with two children, and the occupant of the new one-bedroom will be a man who had been living in the woods near Zephyr.
Heitman, a Houston native, started working as executive director of Brown County Home Solutions in January. The nonprofit organization receives funds from donations and grants.
The homes are intended as “a helping hand up,” and residents of Legacy Village will be a graduated rent to live there, Heitman said earlier.
In addition to Legacy Village, the organization also focuses on helping people who are at risk for becoming homeless through rent assistance, utilities, emergency food and helping them find resources in the community, Heitman said.
Legacy Village is matched with residents 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 earlier. “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.”
Potential Legacy Village tenants must be residents of Brown County, will undergo a criminal background check — no sex offenders will be housed in Legacy Village — and will sign a one-year lease and pay rent, a Legacy Village brochure states.
Tenants will be expected to “work toward self-sufficiency and address the issues that led to their homelessness,” and will be required to help the residences and property clean, the brochure states.