Josiah Ingalls has been called a saint for letting homeless people live on his 10-acre property in rural Texas. Whether his neighbors would agree is another matter.
Last summer, the 43-year-old father and local business owner began allowing people to pitch tents or park RVs on the land he shares with his family and their many sheep and chickens in Cedar Creek, about 45 minutes outside of downtown Austin. Because of the city’s skyrocketing rents—and Texas’ new statewide ban on homeless encampments on public property—the 19 people living at Camp Haven Sanctuary had almost no place else to turn where they wouldn’t run into unaffordable housing costs or trouble with law enforcement. Then came Ingalls.
“This is their home,” Brittany Ellis, who was one of Camp Haven’s first residents, said from a camping chair outside a small garden shed on Ingalls’ property one night in March.
“And they opened it up to us,” emphasized Dawn Howell, a petite 55-year-old with a felony record whom Ellis brought to the camp.
“If it weren’t for that, we would be out there—” another resident began.
“—Hiding from the law,” Howell finished.
Ingalls is voluntarily engaging in perhaps the boldest—and most literal—embodiment of the “Yes in My Backyard” philosophy he feels Austin’s metropolitan area desperately needs. And he’s largely doing it out of his own pocket. His family’s property has repeatedly been hit with $1,000 electricity bills. Soon, it will also need an RV park–style septic system that’s estimated to cost at least $25,000. Where Ingalls will come up with that kind of money is anyone’s guess. He only recently started allowing residents to contribute to Camp Haven’s many expenses, if they want, but he doesn’t believe someone should make money off this kind of endeavor.
“How much money do we have in the Camp Haven account?” Ellis asked Ingalls one day near the back of his property, between a pond and a smattering of garden sheds.
“You don’t want to know,” Ingalls responded.
“Zero?” Ellis laughed.
“I think we have $200 and something,” Ingalls said. “…….