In a city continuously striving for progress, those who have encountered homelessness are often marginalized by Austin’s populace and rarely given a chance at connection.
However, at Community First! Village, those who have experienced chronic homelessness are given an opportunity to feel the warmth of community by means of music. This is achieved by the Pure Goodness Band, composed of individuals who have all experienced the pain of not having a home.
This group is tethered together by three core members. Lee Espinoza shreds the guitar, Nick Christian plays the bass and John Brown connects to the audience with his drums. Each member comes from different musical backgrounds to create a sound that blends elements of funk and rock.
Espinoza said that Pure Goodness means everything to him.
“I’ve been looking for something like (Pure Goodness) for a long time,” Espinoza said. “I thought my music life was over, and then I ran into these guys.”
After being homeless for about a year, Espinoza said he finally has everything at the Village because of Pure Goodness and the music he helps create. Furthermore, he retains a modesty which serves to accentuate his talent and magnify his feelings of being home.
As the group’s founder, drummer John Brown made it a point to gather members of the community for the band.
Although he’s been in various groups over the course of his life, Brown said Pure Goodness is special.
“Everybody that lives out here (is) homeless and has been through the rug, so if they see what we’re doing, it inspires them,” Brown said.
With the group, Brown is attempting to reinforce the community already present. Additionally, Brown also stresses the importance of bringing other individuals out of isolation through musical expression.
“There are a lot more musicians here, they just aren’t coming out, and I want them to come out,” Brown said.
Nick Christian, the trio’s youngest member, is the band’s bass player, a resident at the Village and a resident at Dell Medical School.
Christian’s tiny home, with an interior space that struggles to fit three people, serves as the band’s rehearsal spot. When each instrument is plugged in and the group begins to play, the one ceiling light flickers in rhythm with the music. The entirety of the small room then vibrates with their sound.
Christian said Pure Goodness’ music has created friendships and connections that were otherwise not possible.
“Music through this group has helped me to get closer to people,” Christian said. “That is what keeps me going in the band and what honestly anchored me (at Community First! Village).”
Kaylan Fric, a volunteer who regularly interacts with the Village, said music is a great way to unify people.
“I think the formerly homeless, like most people, have stories to tell,” psychology junior Fric said. “But if you care enough to know this community, you’ll see all their triumphs, like having friends they can count on. And it gives others hope.”