Nonprofits addressing homelessness and substance abuse in Williamson County will receive over $2 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding.

The Williamson County Commissioners Court approved the funding at a May 23 meeting for Mobile Loaves & Fishes, Family Eldercare and Yellow House Foundation. Nonprofit representatives say the funding addresses an increased need for their services as Williamson County grows.

“Go make a difference and save more lives,” County Judge Bill Gravell said after passing the three items.

The breakdownMobile Loaves & Fishes, a homeless ministry based in Austin, will use the $1.4 million to expand its permanent, affordable housing development Community First! Village. The funding will go toward Phase 3 of the 51-acre community, covering infrastructure costs and the construction of 500 homes.

Before voting to approve the measure, Gravell said Mobile Loaves & Fishes was doing “perhaps the most significant work in America when it comes to homelessness.”

Family Eldercare will receive $600,000 to connect homeless individuals to housing and provide supportive services like case management at Community First! Village. Alan Graham, founder and CEO of Mobile Loaves & Fishes, said a longtime partnership with Family Eldercare has allowed the community to provide better support for its residents.

“Housing alone will never solve homelessness; the community will,” Graham said. “The marriage of this partnership with Family Eldercare is a perfect example of that.”

Yellow House Foundation, an alcohol and substance abuse recovery nonprofit in Cedar Park, will use its $300,000 in funding to cover transitional costs as it moves from its current, temporary location to a new space in Leander. The facility has been under construction since January and is expected to open in January 2024, said Hal Cromwell, a board member who coordinates fundraising.

Cromwell said the new ARPA funding is critical as the volunteer-run organization continues to grow with over 3,000 people attending Yellow House Foundation meetings each month.

“This helps us bridge the gap [until] we're in our new home and self-sustaining,” Cromwell said.

The big picture

Both Graham and Cromwell said they’ve seen an increase in the number of people they serve as Williamson County’s population expands. From 2020 to 2022, the county’s population grew by 10%, according to the U.S. census.

“I wish it weren't the case, but as the population grows, so grows addiction and alcoholism,” Cromwell said. “The resources, they’re not growing.”

A 2023 point-in-time count recorded 96 people experiencing homelessness in the county, compared to only 12 individuals in 2020, according to Texas Homeless Network.

“I think you’re going to see more of this in the future unless we really put the right tools in the tool box that are gonna help us mitigate,” Graham said about homelessness in Central Texas.

When it comes to homelessness, Precinct 2 Commissioner Cynthia Long said the commissioners recognize that some organizations are “much better equipped to address the challenge than government.”

“This is an example of government partnering with private organizations, nonprofit organizations, to do great things,” Graham said. “That’s what we’re excited about."