For Springfield Homeless, Eden Village Brings Tiny Homes and Community Living

Nov 21, 2016

A new complex that uses the tiny home model aims to help Springfield’s chronically disabled homeless population and foster a strong community.

Eden Village is a program of the Gathering Tree, a nonprofit that has served homeless individuals for the past seven years.

Dr. David Brown, co-founder, The Gathering Tree
Credit Scott Harvey / KSMU

Dr. David Brown, who along with his wife Linda founded the Gathering Tree, announced the initiative on Monday. This gated community will consist of 30 single-person homes, each roughly 400 square feet, designed to fit a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and living room. According to Dr. Brown, by providing these units to chronically disabled persons they’ll be serving the city‘s most vulnerable homeless population.

“Because nobody pays any attention to ‘em,” he says. “If you’re a mother and have a child and have a family, a lot of resources come into play and people will gravitate to that. But when you take a 45-year-old man that doesn’t have anything – he’s on the street – people just shun ‘em. They don’t deal with ‘em. So I think that’s the population that gets overlooked more than any other.”

He says based on 2014 survey data, of the 700 homeless persons in Springfield about 100 are chronically disabled.

“So we’re looking at maybe pulling a third of them [100 chronically disabled] off the street.”

Judy Huntsman of Coldwell Banker real estate presented a check for $30,000 to purchase the first Eden Village home, saying “When I saw these little houses I said ‘We just have to do it.’”

She later challenged her office to supply the furnishings for the first home.

Model of tiny house, similar to what will be built for Eden Village
Credit Submitted Photo / The Gathering Tree

The 30 total units sought will cost $300,000 altogether. Some $90,000 has already been raised, according to Dr. Brown, which contributed toward the property down payment. He estimates the total investment for the project will be around $1.8 million.

The complex is modeled after the Cottages at Hickory Crossing in Dallas, Texas. It’s in that state where the units will be constructed before delivered to Springfield. Eden Village will be the first tiny home community of its kind in Springfield.

Brown hopes the first home can be in place by February, and that about 10 are installed before the tenants start to move in.

Eden Village will be located at 2801 E Division St. It’s the site of a former mobile home park, which Brown says has the foundation in place to bring in tiny homes.

Residents of the complex will pay rent, relying on a portion of their monthly government subsidy, says Brown. The roughly $300 per month rental price includes everything, he says, such as utilities.

“Most disabled are drawing $700 plus a month, they just don’t know how to manage it. But where can you find a place to live in Springfield for $300 a month that’s this quality?”

“We want ‘em to learn how to live in a community,” says Linda Brown. “Neighbors – you need an egg you go next door.”  

She spoke of a community building to be constructed on site that offers laundry services, a large kitchen for group meals, as well as a place for residents to meet frequently with social services and medical officials.

Linda Brown adds they want to put in a community garden and space available for interactive activities like an art workshop. In addition, she says the gated complex is designed to ensure resident safety.

Since early 2016, the Gathering Tree has operated what it calls a coffee shop/library style drop-in center at the Vineyard Church near downtown. It’s intended to create a safe and friendly environment where meaningful relationships can develop between homeless visitors and citizen volunteers.

One of those volunteers, who declined to give his name, tells KSMU he looks forward to seeing these individuals get the assistance they need.

“To know that they’re not gonna be out here sleeping in the woods; that they’re going to be secure and they can have more self-worth for who they are and what they’re doing in life. It’ll be very rewarding.”

Dr. David Brown says the homeless population costs a community between $30,000 and $40,000 per year per individual in public services like medical, temporary shelter and arrests and incarceration costs. But with housing programs like Eden Village, public service costs can be reduced by as much as 75 percent.

Donations and grants will continue to be a major source for The Gathering Tree for the purchase of the remaining 29 housing units and property payments. Learn more at www.gatheringtree.net.