The Downtown Austin Alliance, an organization made up of downtown stakeholders, announced today a $2 million grant to fund the second phase of Community First, a project in East Austin that provides permanent supportive housing to Austin's homeless through the nonprofit Mobile Loaves & Fishes.

"As it is developed, this project will provide safe and stable housing and supportive services for more than 1,000 people who are currently living on our streets," DAA President and CEO Dewitt "De" Peart said during a news conference.

Mobile Loaves & Fishes plans to develop an additional 24 acres it owns around the property, which founder and CEO Alan Graham said is a $20 million project.

In 2013, the DAA contributed $100,000 to the development of the initial phase of the Community First! Village. What exists currently—trailers, RVs, microhomes, an arthouse, a blacksmith shop, shared kitchens and bathrooms as well as a community and farmers market on 27 acres of land at 9301 Hog Eye Road—was funded entirely by private investments and is worth $17.5 million.

The Community First village consists of several microhomes and trailers.[/caption]

Each home costs about $60,000-$65,000 to build, according to Graham, and about 130 people currently live at Community First.

Today's donation is the largest grant Mobile Loaves & Fishes has ever received and the largest ever donated by the DAA. It comes on the heels of Austin Mayor Steve Adler's proposal last week to provide downtown Austin's homeless population additional resources—with tourism tax dollars eyed as a funding source.

"If you think about it, the mayor's plan is really a continuum," Peart said. "This is one piece of the larger strategy that's needed around helping mitigate the problems with homelessness in Austin."

Peart said he wants to see the mayor's proposal for public funding used to provide more services for the homeless as the private sector handles the physical needs.

"We're all throwing ideas on the wall as to what will happen," Graham said. "We think that this model—which has been here for a while—is an extraordinarily powerful piece of that puzzle."

Graham referred to Adler's downtown puzzle, a series of projects the mayor has identified for improvements in the area.

According to Peart, data from ECHO—the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition—shows there has been an 11 percent increase in the total number of homeless from 2015-16 and the number of unsheltered homeless increased by 25 percent across the city.

Downtown Austin Alliance presents $2 million grant to Mobile Loaves & Fishes Alan Graham is the founder and CEO of Mobile Loaves & Fishes.[/caption]

"We are at a critical point and must act now to ensure the specific services and adequate housing are made available," he said.

Peart said the goal with this donation is to inspire others, both in the private and public sectors, to contribute to Mobile Loaves & Fishes' efforts.

"This challenge can only be solved through collaborative efforts with all involved," he said.

In addition to the expansion of Community First, Graham said he wants to build a 600-to-1,000-square-foot commissary downtown in the next year for the homeless population. Mobile Loaves & Fishes also has mobile food trucks that make frequent stops in and around downtown.

On Nov. 8, a larger campaign to expand Community First will be announced, according to Graham.

"I don't see this movement stopping," he said.