Like most cities across this nation, our shelter system is over-burdened and lacks adequate resources to effectively address the problem. There are roughly 300 shelter beds available to serve Richmond and her surrounding counties, and they're rarely available to the growing number of neighbors experiencing homelessness; currently estimated at roughly 600+ on any given night. "Why?" you ask? Because our shelter system lacks sufficient beds to satisfy the true need, and rarely has available beds for our neighbors struggling to ascend out of their homeless nightmare. It was never intended to be a longterm waypoint, but rather a brief stop on the ascent to transitional housing on the way to affordable housing.
Meant as a first step out of homelessness and the shelter system, "transitional housing" became a place where many of our friends find themselves stuck, due to the lack of "affordable housing" to move "up" into. HUD-funded programs like halfway houses, Permanent Supportive Housing and Rapid Re-Housing are designed to transition neighbors from the woods, streets, and shelters into a structured housing environment that guides them "back" into society. Because funding is limited, so is the availability of beds in the halfway & transitional houses. And the trend has seen a departure from transitional housing altogether.
Few builders and developers devote their energy and resources to building "affordable" housing. Why? The profit margins reaped from building housing units truly affordable to the lowest income earners and those relying upon government subsidies are generally not appealing. Hence, most of them focus on highly profitable luxury communities and homes. The results are seen in our current shortage of housing that is truly affordable to those struggling to climb out of transitional housing, subsidized "Section 8" housing, and the shelter system. Likewise, there are limited apartments available from landlords willing to accept vouchers; government promises to pay the rent on behalf of tenants participating in these programs.
The philosophy behind "Housing 1st", very simply put, is that we can't help, heal, or cure someone struggling to survive each day outdoors, until we help them satisfy their need for shelter. We couldn't agree more! AND, we believe there's much more...and it is built around community.
We've seen firsthand what happens when a neighbor living outdoors is plucked out of their familiar surroundings and planted in a new community, in an attempt to help them re-assimilate into society. After years of flying a sign on the same corner, becoming a fixture in the community and known by name by countless who pass them each day...they become withdrawn and recluse when moved to unfamiliar and often unfriendly surroundings where those they know are nowhere near. The results are often a downward spiral of interest in life and becoming part of a community with whom they lack anything in common. One friend, Steve, resorted to riding two metro buses to get back to "his" corner, his community where he "fit in", to fly his sign, interact with passersby, buy his 40 oz. beer, and ride two buses back to his apartment at the end of each day, where he'd avoid any contact with his new neighbors. He didn't last long in that environment, and was soon relocated to an apartment in walking distance of his old corner, where he now sits daily with a smile. He now has a home, and he's home.
What if we built a community where the residents all had something in common...homelessness? Where services and support were available for addressing addictions and mental health issues? Where housing was truly affordable, safe, tailored to the individual, and everyone paid rent? Where micro-enterprises offered opportunities to earn a dignified wage? Where surrounding communities eagerly volunteered and linked arms with residents to keep this community beautiful and sustainable? A community governed by Christian principles and respectful of all religions and belief systems?
This is what we observed during our visit in February of 2018 to the Community First! Village in Austin, TX. A planned community of 150 tiny houses designed and built by the best Austin has to offer, and a history of success making their formerly homeless residents finally feel at home. This model is what we intend to pattern our Mo Hope Village after.
The Mo Hope Village will be a 45-acre master planned community that will provide affordable, permanent housing and a supportive community for men and women coming out of chronic homelessness. This transformative residential program exists to love and serve our neighbors who have been living on the streets, while also empowering the surrounding community into a lifestyle of service with the homeless.
Let me begin by praising God for the land He set aside for the Mo Hope Village, and for the many generous donors He'll fund this land purchase through. Thank you Father God!
Speaking it into existence in the present...The Mo Hope Village is a 45-acre master planned community that provides affordable, permanent housing and a supportive community for men and women coming out of chronic homelessness. This transformative residential program exists to love and serve our neighbors who have been living on the streets, while also empowering the surrounding community into a lifestyle of service with the homeless.
This incredible property has a 10 acre dormant apple orchard we hope to revitalize, two large stocked ponds we plan to raise catfish in, and plenty of cleared land to accommodate the 50-100+ tiny houses, a clinic, an art studio, woodworking shop, community market, and other structures we'll eventually need. It also has two steel buildings on concrete slabs; one of which is 17,000 sq.ft.! That's large enough to build tiny house in; unhampered by the weather outside, and then wheel them outside to their foundation. Once the house construction phase is complete, that huge building can be converted into a worship sanctuary and community center! And almost the entire property perimeter is lined with dense trees providing privacy from and for nearby neighbors, and from the roads on two sides.
Yesterday morning, I met with our Mo Hope sponsor and realtor, Steve Dalton of Dalton Realty, to initial two minor changes the owner of the property requested we make in the contract we drafted last week to purchase their 45 beautiful acres in Caroline County! We offered $409,000, and they accepted!
Without going into too much detail, we are confident that we'll receive roughly $175,000 from various generous sources before the end of January. The remaining $234,000 will either be owner-financed, or we'll obtain commercial financing. We are also actively searching for grants to help fund part or all of that balance, as well as infrastructure needs and ongoing operational costs.
The construction of the homes for our unsheltered friends will be done by partner churches who will adopt one formerly homeless friend each, to build them a home, love them as Jesus would, and volunteer alongside them in this new community. We very much need, and would appreciate you helping promote this opportunity within your church and with your church leadership.
There are two contingencies we must satisfy before the deal is final, and we need your prayers and support for both:
1) We have 60 days to gain approval from Caroline County's planning & zoning folks to build our community. That's a much smaller window than we had hoped for, but big enough for God.
***We need your prayers that God will prepare their hearts and minds and those of the neighbors in the area to see the many positive aspects and expected impacts our village will bring.***
2) We have 180 days to conduct feasibility studies to determine if the land is suitable for our purposes. This includes septic field(s) and community well(s), etc. These studies will cost roughly $50,000 which will need to be paid as we incur the expenses.
***We need your prayers that the property will prove to be all that we need it to be. That those through whom God intends to fund these studies will respond to His nudges and prompting, and contribute as they are so led in the coming weeks and few months.***
If you feel led to contribute toward the $50,000 we need rather quickly to pay for the feasibility studies, your generous gift will be greatly appreciated! The Mo Hope Village has its own bank account and PayPal account to allow us to keep those funds separate from our main Mo Hope accounts. You check made payable to Mo Hope Village should be sent to our P.O. Box 161, Studley, VA 23162. If you prefer, you contribute via www.paypal.me/mohopevillage. Thank you in advance!
You can also request additional information or send us your questions via firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’ll close by again thanking our most loving and generous God for giving us this vision for a Community that will provide permanent Homes for so many men and women currently living the nightmare of chronic homelessness, and for bringing around our table so many churches, businesses, and families who have expressed a desire to come alongside us to volunteer, serve, and fund this vision to bring it to fruition.
Founder & Executive Director
Moments of Hope Outreach
Your generous tax deductible donation to the Mo Hope Village Building Fund will help fund our mission to create a community of tiny homes to end the homeless nightmare so many of our neighbors in the Richmond area are enduring. All funds received via this PayPal link are deposited into a special account solely for the purpose of building the Mo Hope Village.