Philanthropy in Action
Mobile Loaves & Fishes and Community First! Village
Creating a permanent home so that no one in Austin is homeless
John Paul DeJoria understands what it’s like to be homeless. In his early 20s, he found himself homeless and living in his car with his young son. He became homeless again as he was on the verge of starting Paul Mitchell. He remembers cashing in bottles to have money for food, and he isn’t shy about talking about the struggle to obtain the things we take for granted each day when he was without a home. For DeJoria, philanthropy is relational, and there is nothing he is more passionate about than relating to and helping lift his brothers and sisters out of homelessness. He is especially passionate about giving them the tools and skills that will empower them to support themselves and become self-sufficient. For DeJoria, the vision and work of Alan Graham, founder of Mobile Loaves & Fishes and Community First! Village, was a perfect fit.
"I have been so down and out in my life. It makes me feel really good to be financially blessed and give back. I get great joy and a great high out of it. It's my way of paying rent on this planet to share with others less fortunate."
Mobile Loaves & Fishes began when five parishioners of St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Austin, Texas, boldly answered God’s call to “love your neighbor as yourself.” Alan Graham and his friends began delivering meals out of the back of a minivan to men and women they found living on the streets. Their first trip serving meals on the streets of Austin was in September 1998. Within a few months, Graham and his group purchased a pick-up truck with a catering bed. Since that first truck run, Mobile Loaves & Fishes volunteers have served more than 5 million meals with a side of hope to homeless men and women living on the streets. Delivering more than a sandwich, Mobile Loaves & Fishes volunteers hit the streets seven nights a week, 365 days a year to provide food, clothing, hygiene products and other life sustaining items to our homeless neighbors who are struggling to survive.
Complementing its truck ministry, Mobile Loaves & Fishes is also the visionary behind Austin’s innovative Community First! Village—a 51-acre master-planned development that provides affordable, permanent housing and a supportive community for the chronically homeless in Central Texas. Additionally, Mobile Loaves & Fishes’ Community Works program provides micro-enterprise opportunities that enable formerly homeless men and women to earn a dignified income, develop new skills, and cultivate enduring relationships as they take part in a restorative journey home.
JP’s Peace, Love & Happiness Foundation has been instrumental in the Community First! Village since supporting its very first tractor in 2013 soon after the purchase of the original 27 acres. Its support launched the Genesis Gardens program and allowed the team to cultivate the land and provide dignified income to future residents through the organic gardens. John Paul and Eloise then sponsored homes for 15 of the very first residents who once experienced chronic homelessness in Austin, Texas.
As a serial entrepreneur, John Paul jumped in with the MLF team to provide advice, guidance and support to help develop the Community Works program’s micro-enterprise opportunities that enable our friends who have experienced homelessness to earn a dignified income. This included the Community Car Care program that thanks to JP’s Peace, Love & Happiness Foundation is now a fully certified state inspection station and the addition of a full-scale silk-screening program in the Arthouse.
JP’s Peace, Love & Happiness Community Works building is the largest single gift in the history of Mobile Loaves & Fishes. It will unleash the unique skills, talents, and creativity of men and women of our community and empower them to earn an income and pay their rent. These are the very people we discourage, neglect and often condemn while standing on our corners.
“John Paul’s willingness to share the Community First! Village with his enthusiastic advocacy reaches far beyond anything we can describe. The former chronic homeless men and women of Austin, Texas, not only have a place to call home but a place they take great pride and care for, and we can’t put a price tag on this.”—Alan Graham