Drury University architecture students continue efforts to help Springfield homeless campground with another new cottage

Published: May. 10, 2023 at 7:48 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Since it’s opening in 2021 the Revive 66 Campground has evolved into much more than just 10 teardrop trailers providing overnight stays for the homeless.

The campground, run by The Gathering Tree non-profit organization that also runs Eden Village (tiny homes for the homeless), now has the look of an old-style Route 66 postcard with decorative signs, classic cars and vintage buildings.

It now sleeps around 50-60 per-night in trailers and small huts outfitted with solar panels and there’s a trailer with bathrooms, showers and laundry facilities.

Several local businesses and organizations are responsible for the improvements and Drury University’s architecture department has also become involved with five projects.

They’ve built two more camper trailers complete with additions like steps that fold into a desk, solar panels and shelves that pull out from the side of the trailer.

They built a tiny home at Eden Village for a student-aged deaf man who had been homeless for five years.

And they’ve also planned and constructed a pair of cottages at the campground that each holds two people.

The original cottage was a wood-exterior structure with stain-glass windows around it and a bench out front.

On Wednesday a ribbon-cutting was held for the newest cottage next door, this one a big more modernistic in design with fiber cement siding and acrylic plexiglass on one exterior wall that glows at night.

“Part of what we’re doing here is allowing the students to explore architecture,” said Drury professor Traci Sooter, who oversees the projects. “There are things that we did here that you wouldn’t have to do just to provide shelter. But we’re also trying to provide an elegant, dignified shelter for the unsheltered to hopefully uplift them and encourage them to make it through the next day.”

“This campground is about looking at homelessness and wondering how it would change if we could provide a good night’s sleep,” added Nate Schlueter, the Chief Visionary Officer for The Gathering Tree. “Without a good night’s sleep nothing’s going to change. There’s not going to be the opportunity for a moment of clarity to make a significant life change to get into housing and be a good neighbor.”

The non-profit organization “Stomp the Blues out of Homeless” sponsored the $17,500 cottage that gave 20 Drury architect students not only lessons in their chosen career, but lessons on life as well.

“These kind of projects allow students to interact with homeless people that they normally wouldn’t get to meet on campus,” Schlueter pointed out. “And hopefully their perceptions of homelessness have been changed.”

“I think it can be easy to pass judgement when we see things we might not understand,” said Drury architecture student Alyssa Griffin. “But at the end of the day we get to go home to bed. We have cars to get home. We have access to things these people do not have and we all need to keep uplifting each other in order to see improvement.”

“It didn’t hit me personally until I saw the bed go in the cottage that this is really going to change someone’s life forever,” said Drury architecture student Jillian Kirchner. “We need to put aside our prejudice and understand that we’re all humans and it’s important to be kind to one another.”

“They all started in the same shoes we did but just got put in a tough situation that landed them on the streets,” said Drury architecture student Lizzie Daggett. “Rather than pushing them away we’re giving them hope that they can come here and stay in a warm bed and be safe.”

While the Revive 66 Campground has certainly had its problems ranging from trash being left around nearby businesses during the day when the grounds are closed to homeless people being hit while crossing the busy Chestnut Expressway, the Drury workers say the good that’s being done here is definitely appreciated by those who need it.

“When we bring cars in here to get materials unloaded they come up and help,” Daggett said. “They want to feel included.”

“They watch what we’re doing and as we leave every day they’re thanking us and they’re proud that we’re doing something that has a lot of caring behind it,” Sooter said. “That appreciation motivates us and it has profoundly changed my life. Seeing what other people have gone through and the strength and the big hearts that they still have is absolutely amazing and I’m so happy to be a small part of helping them out.”

“When they express their gratitude it holds more value than any other project we’ve ever done,” Griffin added. “To see the direct impact on the community and see how thankful they are, it’s worth every bit of the journey for us.”

The “Stomp the Blues Out of Homelessness” organization will be holding its 12th annual Blues Festival on June 10 in Springfield as a fundraiser for homeless causes. You can get more information at https://stompthebluesoutofhomelessness.com/

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