Through smiles and tears, Legacy Village’s two newest residents repeatedly thanked community members who turned out for an open house Saturday that was both joyous and emotional.
Legacy Village, operated by the nonprofit Brown County Home Solutions (BCHS), is a community that will eventually consist of 16 “tiny homes” — with three completed so far and a fourth nearing completion — and is intended to help the homeless.
Legacy Village is at the site of the former Avenue D Baptist Church, 1105 Ave. D in Brownwood. They units are intended as temporary homes where residents — who are selected after a background check and application process — pay a graduated rent and are subject to requirements including financial and budget training imposed by Brown County Home Solutions.
BCHS’s mission is to “address homelessness in Brown County by assisting homeless individuals and families — and persons at risk of homelessness — to quickly regain stability into permanent housing,” its website states.
The one-bedroom homes are 475 square feet, and the two-bedroom units are 575 square feet.
“Legacy Village — building a legacy,” said 18-year-old Kenley Reed, whose aunt, Allison Bigbie, was about to move into the two-bedroom home with her two young children.
The homes have been built largely with volunteer labor and donated materials, and furnished and decorated with items that have been donated or bought by sponsors.
Many of those who attended Saturday’s open house were members of Freedom Fellowship church in Early, which sponsored, furnished and decorated one of the new units. Also attending the open house were Hank Hunter and a friend who decorated and furnished the other new unit through Hunter’s business, Texas Clean.
Linda Heitman, executive director of BCHS, said earlier that Legacy Village is matched with residents through several methods including referrals from the Texas Health and Human Services.
“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 plans are to convert the former Avenue D church into use for office space and other functions, as well as an inclement weather shelter.
“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.”
Legacy Village residents are initially accepted for a six-month period and may be approved for a second six-month period, for a one-year maximum, Heitman said. Residents are required to apply for a HUD voucher for public housing, are required to work at the Brownwood Community Garden and are also required to “pay it forward” by helping at other tiny homes, Heitman said.
At Saturday’s open house, a man named Chuck Stonex — who also attends Freedom Fellowship — said he wants to start a recovery ministry at Legacy Village. Stonex said he has made plans to meet with Heitman next week about starting the ministry.
Also attending was Pam Bowden, who is with the Mental Health Association in Abilene. Bowden said she attended the open house with a co-worker to learn how BCHS works.
“This is amazing, what they’ve been able to do,” Bowden said.
Former Brownwood resident Brian Potter lives in Tyler with his wife, Hailey, and their two children. Before Avenue D Baptist Church disbanded, it was the sponsoring church of another ministry that Potter was involved in.
Potter and his family visited Brownwood this weekend and learned about the Legacy Village open house.
Through Legacy Village, Potter said, he can see that “the seed God planted in our hearts is growing. I think what’s happening here is somewhat that’s so needed,” Potter said.