Salt of the earth light the way to help homeless

Salt and Light founder Adrianne Hillman plans community for homeless based on successful model created in Austin, Texas

By Paul Myers @PaulM_SGN

TULARE – If there is one thing everyone agrees on about homelessness in Tulare County it’s that it is not going away.

Where some turn to the government to handle it, others are putting themselves in the mix to try and find a solution.

Adrianne Hillman, founder of Salt and Light, welcomed Tulare County community members from all over to her home on Saturday, Oct. 12 to launch her vision for helping the homeless community. She said she was divinely inspired to do something for those in need.

“God talks to you in whispers and then He taps you on the shoulder, and then sometimes He comes at you with a brick, and I didn’t want the brick,” Hillman said during her speech.

According to saltandlightworks.org, Hillman has lived in Tulare County her entire life and was raised in the rural dairy community of Tipton. Prior to founding Salt and light she practiced as a life coach, speaker and founder of the empowerment brand, Do It Afraid.

Salt and Light’s mission is to create an intentional community that lifts Tulare County’s chronically homeless neighbors off the streets. Their goal it to reinvent the perception people have about the chronically homeless, revitalize local communities by offering palliative relief to the homeless, reawaken the homeless to a sense of purpose and value through partnering with them; reconnect a human to human experience; and renew lifestyles of abundance by inspiring people to offer their best.

Hillman has chosen to predicate her vision of a community on the Mobile Loaves and Fishes Community First! Village model in Austin, Texas. Initiated by Mobile Loaves and Fishes founder and CEO Alan Graham, Community First! Village has housed over 100 previously homeless neighbors, and is currently in Phase 2, which will total the village at 51 acres and over 500 tiny homes.

Graham was invited to speak at Hillman’s launch party to give perspective to what Salt and Light is aiming to achieve. According to Mobile Loaves and Fishes website, Graham and his four friends, “answered God’s call to love your neighbor.” They did so by delivering meals to homeless men and women from the back of a green minivan. Since their founding they have served more than 5 million meals to the homeless living in Austin.

Graham is the author of “Welcome Homeless: One Man’s Journey of Discovering the Meaning of home” and also hosts the “Gospel Con Carne” podcast that explores the wondedness of society through untold stories of individuals who have encountered homelessness.

At Hillman’s launch party he noted some key reasons why people become homeless. In his Community First! Village, Graham said that people have ended up on the streets because of loss, and only community is the solution.

“People have ended up on the streets because of a profound, catastrophic loss of family…Housing will never solve homelessness but a Community will,” Graham said.

He added that it is important to understand how a home is supposed to function.

“Home is a place of permanence…we should feel safe in our environment,” Graham said.

At the Community First! Village, Graham and Loaves and Fishes attempts to create the permanent and safe environment he believes everyone needs. But first it starts with an extensive vetting process, and paying rent. Graham said that rent is a must because it puts “some skin the in the game” and gives them some level of ownership. But there are also micro enterprises.

At the village, residents have a bed and breakfast, blacksmithing and culinary courses in addition to several others. This way people have the purpose they need in their day-to-day lives.

Graham brought his message home when he talked about a friend and long time resident of the village, John Vincent Billard. Billard was abandoned by his father and family when he was 8 years old. Graham said that he lived a hard life filled with drugs and multiple arrests, but eventually found Mobile Loaves and Fishes’ Community First! Village. He was one of the first residents.

“He was the life of the village,” Graham said.

Then, Billard had a heart attack. Emergency Medical Services arrived and managed to bring him back to life after several rounds of chest compressions. On the way to the hospital they lost his pulse, but brought it back, again with chest compressions. Billard was in a coma for 10 days at the hospital, and his doctor made the call that there was little hope for his long term health. Billard’s wife decided it was time to pull the plug. Friends and family surrounded his bedside to say their goodbyes.

“He was being loved on and cared for. A man who was abandoned by his family…was being sent off by the love the people of this community,” Graham said, as a message to what the village could provide.

Hilman said during a Q&A segment of the launch party, that they are still exploring land opportunities to create a small community similar to that of the Mobile Loaves and Fishes village. She added that she plans to sell her home in Tulare and live in the community when things were settled.

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