Homeless RV park in Austin may be a model of success

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by SHANNON MURRAY / KVUE NEWS and Photojournalist Chris Shadrock

Bio | Email | Follow: @ShannonM_KVUE

KVUE.com

Posted on August 17, 2013 at 10:35 PM

Updated Sunday, Aug 18 at 11:49 AM

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Do you think an RV park is a smart way to house the homeless?

AUSTIN -- From sleeping on a concrete slab to living in a home of his own, a success story for an Austin man who beat the odds. Now one Austin group hopes to give others like him the chance to do the same.

This week, commissioners approved plans for a homeless RV park in central east Austin. Despite some concern from neighbors, the group behind it says this model is already proving successful in Austin.

Saturday Robert Burton welcomed us in to his humble abode.

"What more could you ask for?" he asked.

The RV isn't just a roof over his head. For Burton, it's a chance at a better life. He used to be homeless.

"I slept on a concrete slab with just a blanket and a pillow," Burton said.

He says he made some bad choices and had a few strikes on his name. Finding work and an affordable place to rent near impossible, he slept on the streets in Texas summer heat.

"I'd wait until about 3am to go to sleep because the cement was so hot," Burton remembered.

That's when Mobile Loaves and Fishes stepped in. He heard about the Community First Program and realized this was his chance

"For us, this is a way out of a hole that otherwise we might not otherwise be able to get out," Burton said.

Mobile Loaves and Fishes has 41 Community First residents spread across different RV communities in Austin. Now they're ready to expand

The newly approved Sunshine RV park will house up to 200 people. It will turn the field near Hog Eye Rd and Decker Lane into a community and help people just like Burton.

"It's not a homeless shelter. It's a first class, master plan, gated community," said Nate Schlueter with Mobile Loaves and Fishes.

Schlueter says with this park they hope to alleviate the chronically homeless population in Austin by 20%.

"It's centered on renewal and dignity and when we add those in the life of a typical homeless person we find out they're a lot like us," Schlueter said.

Now Burton is ready to move again.

"I'm going to be the first one there," Burton said. "It's a opportunity for all the community first residents to be together and to grow and build together and help each other."

Burton has a full time job as cook and also volunteers with Mobile Loaves. Having a home also allowed him to reconnect with his family and his oldest son now lives with him.

This Saturday, like many parents this time of year, we find him filling out paper work as his son prepares to start his senior year in high school.

"We're human. We've made mistakes, so does everybody. And we're not being snatched out of some jail house situation a lot of us just didn't have the opportunity to get a place, now we do," Burton said.

To move in to Sunshine, a person must be single and on the streets of Central Texas for a year or longer with a physical or mental disability. They must also have a source of income. Homes in the community will range anywhere from $90 a month to $375. Construction will start next year.
 

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