A dozen community members gathered at the Texas Housing Foundation office July 27 to hear details of an initiative to turn the Southwest Village duplexes in Marble Falls into transitional housing for area homeless people. The initiative is a collaborative effort between the housing foundation, the Highland Lakes Crisis Network, and First Baptist Church of Marble Falls.
“We have a major issue across the state due to affordability, and it’s caused a major problem across the state with homelessness,” said Mark Mayfield, CEO of the Texas Housing Foundation. “I’ve lived in Marble Falls my entire life, and I would have never dreamed I would have seen this happening in my hometown, but we are. (We) would like to step up and address that issue and not allow it to become a real hindrance to our community.”
The Southwest Village duplexes are 24 affordable housing units located at the corner of Avenue R and Fourth Street in Marble Falls. The housing foundation was required to host a public hearing as part of the process to turn the units into transitional housing.
Art Cole, who lives near the duplexes, questioned what types of people would be accepted into the initiative. He presented foundation board members with 60 signatures from nearby neighbors expressing safety concerns.
“Everyone (who signed) agreed: We’re Christian and would like to give a hand up, but we are concerned,” Cole said. “Those who are homeless through no fault of their own, we would like to help people like that. But (what) about drug use, alcoholics, and mentally unstable individuals who might be going through this facility?”
One of the main motivators behind the initiative is to provide housing for about 95 students in the Marble Falls Independent School District classified as homeless, Mayfield responded. Because of this, families will be prioritized.
The Highland Lakes Crisis Network will oversee the programmatic side of the initiative, Executive Director Kevin Naumann explained during the meeting. Those enrolled in the initiative will be guided toward helpful resources such as personal finance and job procurement classes through the network’s Shepherding program. Volunteers, called shepherds, will hold program participants accountable as they move toward a more stable day-to-day life.
“These are families that are trying to make it work, but, for whatever reason, things are not working,” Naumann said. “Our thought is, if we can get ahead of (homelessness) right now and dramatically break the cycle of poverty, we can have a better community for a longer time and not end up with the tents and camping that we see in Austin.”
One attendee, Veronica Ortiz, voiced her objection to the project and asked if a different complex location had been considered.
“You can say all that you say, but people know how to take advantage of these programs,” Ortiz said. “We’re concerned that people would fall through the cracks. It seems like this part of town, which is the lower income, middle income part of town, is always where programs like this happen.”
The duplexes were chosen because they are located across the street from the First Baptist Church Mission Center, Mayfield explained. The close proximity will allow people easy access to resources and programs offered at the center.
Current tenants can choose to stay at Southwest Village, while those choosing relocation can move to another complex owned by the foundation, Chief Operating Officer Allison Milliorn said during the meeting. Moving fees, two months’ rent, and security deposits will be covered for those who decide to move.
The Texas Housing Foundation does not limit how long people can stay in housing, but Mayfield foresees stays at Southwest Village lasting anywhere from six months to three years. Duplex residents and surrounding neighbors can reach out to the foundation with their concerns and questions as the project continues.
“We have not put all the programs into place,” Mayfield said. “But I can just tell you to draw your conclusions on the history of this organization, the First Baptist Church, and the integrity of the Crisis Network. This will be something we will all be proud of.”