Eden Village 3 groundbreaking another step in getting more homeless people permanent housing

Published: Nov. 30, 2022 at 6:52 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Several dozen people braved below-freezing temperatures Wednesday morning to see the groundbreaking for Eden Village 3 on High Street in north Springfield. And the cold was an ironic reminder of those who will benefit from the new housing project.

“Think about living on the streets in this weather,” said Annie Busch.

Busch and her husband Don are one of several sponsors who are making the 24 new duplexes possible at Eden Village 3. Counting Eden Village 1 and 2, there will be 79 tiny homes for the homeless by the end of 2023, when the units at Eden Village 3 are expected to be finished. David and Linda Brown, the founders of the non-profit organization Gathering Tree, said they hope to add two more Eden Villages to bring the total to 200 homes.

With each unit costing between $30,000-$40,000, the need for private donations is critical. And Annie was proud to leave a legacy by sponsoring a home.

“Affordable housing is such an important need in our community,” she said. “Sometimes we look at the homeless problem and think it’s just too big to do anything about, but there is something we can do to help. So now I can say, ‘There’s a house here and an individual in that house who is safe and warm. What better thing could we do?’”

“Eden Village 1, as of last July, had provided 40,000 nights of sleep,” added David Brown. “That’s 40,000 nights that someone didn’t have to sleep on the streets. And that’s just one village. That number is going to grow and be astronomical. That means a lot to us.”

The success of Springfield’s Eden Village has even gotten to the point where it’s being copied nationwide.

“We now have 11 cities that are building Eden Villages now,” David Brown said. “And I think that’s just the beginning.”

But expansion locally hasn’t been easy.

“There’s a ‘not in my backyard’ movement,” said Nate Schlueter, Eden Village’s Chief Visionary Officer. Some neighborhoods have opposed the organization building in their area because of worries over their property values going down and crime going up.

“We’ve done a multitude of studies across our properties,” Schlueter told the crowd at the groundbreaking. “Property values are up because it’s impossible to dump $3-4 million into a field and lower somebody’s property values. And crime is down because we have security cameras, and our newest employee is a narcotics-indicating dog. We don’t allow crime and drugs on the properties that we own and operate.”

“I think once they see how well they are run and the life changes that are happening there, they are more receptive to the fact that this works,” Linda Brown added. “Eden Village 2 just won their neighborhood’s ‘Neighbor Award’ for being good neighbors. We’re a part of their Neighborhood Association, and they meet in our community center.”

Another challenge taken on by Gathering Tree is a lawsuit the organization filed against the state after a law was passed making it illegal for the homeless to sleep on state-owned land. The legislation also redirects state funding towards short-term, but not long-term, housing.

“We feel like we have to be the voice for those who have no voice,” Linda Brown said.

And the Browns have no plans to stop helping their “friends” anytime soon.

“We had no idea we were going to get involved to this extent,” David Brown said. “So who knows what’s next after we get the other two Eden Villages done? People are wondering what to do about families, which would involve building a different kind of village for them. But our dream is to someday make it where nobody sleeps on the street. That may be a goal that we’ll never meet, but at least we keep trying to reach it.”

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