Homeless village still searching for a home

The Sun-Gazette

Salt + Light continues its search for land to build a micro-home village for Tulare County’s homeless to live, work to help others and work on themselves

VISALIA – Homeless advocates Salt + Light have yet to find a suitable site for its micro-home village. The Sun-Gazette reported last week the faith-based nonprofit was looking at properties both north and south of the Tulare County Government Plaza Complex on Mooney Boulevard, but founder Adrianne Hillman said they are still looking at all their options and are open to other sites. In an interview last week, Hillman said finding a site has been difficult because it needs to be 20 to 40 acres of contiguous land, have access to water and must be near services such as food donations, mental health counseling and general health care.

“Finding a piece of property that will work for the construction of the Salt + Light Community, as well as the community at large has proven difficult, as expected,” Hillman wrote in a Sept. 4 email to supporters. “It has required a great deal of patience and discipline for me to get comfortable with the slow and beautiful work of God. If I had my way, this community would be built already. Through this stillness and time of contemplation, I have begun to better practice handing things back to God that I keep trying to yank from Him.”

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 last October to give perspective to what Salt and Light is aiming to achieve. According to Mobile Loaves and Fishes web site, 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.

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.

While a donation of a 40-acre block of land would be great, Hillman told supporters last night at a Virtual Volunteer Information event, that there are many other ways for people to give their time, talents and legal tender. Hillman told volunteers they could help with fundraising, connecting with artisan and trades people or join a committee to help plan the community.

Salt + Light has already begun working on a variety of fundraisers such as hosting a birthday party fundraiser on Facebook, selling promotional items, hosting a documentary screening for Community First! Or helping organize a caramel apple fundraiser. Finding tradesmen and companies willing to make in-kind donations of their services will be critical in the areas of construction, electrical, plumbing, landscaping and paving.

“One of my favorite quotes is ‘God does not call the equipped, He equips the called’,” Hillman wrote in her message. “In this season, I feel that God is not only equipping me as the CEO of Salt + Light, but He is also equipping our Salt + Light team, our generous donors (or donors to be) and our volunteers to be ready for the life change that will be the Salt + Light Community.”

Those just wanting to donate money to be a part of the project can purchase bricks in honor of a loved one or in memory of someone that will be laid into a pathway inside the community. The Helping Hands Committee is just one of the many people can serve on. Others include construction and maintenance, donation items and welcome baskets, events, and even a socks and sandwiches committee, which will present each resident of the community with a new pair of socks, sandwich and offering prayers and guidance to services.

“Every person has something special to contribute and by choosing to serve our neighbors along side us, you are making an impact that will change the lives of hundreds of folks surviving on the streets of Tulare County,” Hillman said during the presentation.

Anyone interested in signing up as a volunteer can go to saltandlightworks.org/volunteer where they can fill out a follow up survey or send questions to [email protected]. Hillman added that just as important as donations of time and money, prayers will be needed to make the community a reality.

“As always, we ask that you continue to pray for Salt + Light,” Hillman said in an email to supporters.

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