It was a tough choice for this week’s good people, for I had two major candidates, and several small ones and only so much time, space, & energy. So, I have bookmarked the ones I didn’t choose for another Wednesday! Meanwhile, I’d like to introduce you to David and Linda Brown of Springfield, Missouri.
Back in November 2010, the couple saw a need for a drop-in center for the homeless in downtown Springfield during the early evening hours. Together with some friends, they opened one evening a week at The Front Porch, a venue in the heart of downtown. The purpose was two-fold. First, was to provide a safe place for homeless persons to get off the streets for a few hours. Second, was to build relationships and gain a firsthand understanding of homelessness.
A couple of years later, they expanded their operation, formed The Gathering Tree, and moved to a different location to better meet the needs of more homeless people. The Gathering Tree obtained a two-year lease for their own facility and were able to expand the hours to five evenings a week with the help of many individuals and several organizations. Meals were provided along with essential items such as clothing, personal care items and survival gear. As many as 150+ individuals were served during these evenings.
Through the years, they expanded their operation such that people coming in off the street were able to rest, play card games, use computers, sing karaoke, partake in a bingo evening, take a shower and continue to get essentials they needed to survive on the street. But they knew this wasn’t enough … these people needed a place to live, a home! In 2017 Linda, who is a real estate agent, learned of a listing for an abandoned 4.2-acre mobile park on Springfield’s east side. The property wouldn’t need to be rezoned for tiny-home trailers, and the infrastructure and utilities were already in place.
So, they transformed an abandoned mobile home property into a village of tiny homes that provides permanent housing to the chronically homeless. They raised $4.75 million and opened Eden Village in 2018, erecting 31 tiny homes that are now occupied by people like Jonathan Fisher. He was battling substance abuse and had lived on the streets for two years when he met Linda Brown, who changed his life. Says Mr. Fisher …
“In the worst moments of my life, Linda gave me guidance, care, and made me feel like I was still worth something. She helped me to build a better life. Even when I was struggling with homelessness and sobriety, she showed me I was valuable and that my potential shouldn’t be wasted. She made me feel like I belonged somewhere.”
He says that Brown took the time to learn about how he became homeless, and then encouraged him as he rebuilt his life. She even offered him a job. Now sober, Fisher works full-time for Brown, doing construction and maintenance on the 31 homes, and helping others who are experiencing struggles similar to what he went through. David & Linda believe that the root causes of a person’s homelessness cannot be thoroughly addressed until his or her immediate housing needs are met.
The tiny homes are rolled in on wheels attached to their steel frames, qualifying them as recreational vehicles. The 400-square-foot individual homes are fully furnished, including dishes and bedding. They can remain in their home as long as they wish, provided they remain a good neighbor in the community. The village includes a 4,000-square-foot community center where residents can hold cookouts, do laundry, and access a medical office staffed with student nurse volunteers and mental health professionals. Eden Village was even the site of a marriage ceremony for two residents.
Plans for additional villages are already underway on donated land. Eden Village 2 will house 24 residents in tiny homes and is close to opening. Then, work will begin on Eden Village 3, which could house up to 80 residents in duplexes. Over the next six years, Brown, who is a realtor for Amax Real Estate, plans to have five villages across Springfield, housing an estimated 200 homeless people.
This is a movement whose time has come, for numerous other cities are seeking to replicate Eden Village. One project is underway in Wilmington, N.C., and 34 other communities are making plans to replicate Eden Village. Two thumbs up to this couple who cared enough to do something about the homeless people in their city! 👍👍