Linda Brown believes that when it comes to solving homelessness, it takes a village.
She and her husband David spent nine years supporting people experiencing homelessness in Springfield, Missouri, through a charitable organization called The Gathering Tree.
The Gathering Tree welcomed people a few times each week during daylight hours, providing a safe and welcoming place for them to take showers, do laundry, use a computer, socialize, or simply rest and rejuvenate. One evening in 2016, Linda had an epiphany when they had to close their doors for the night.
“It was a cold, blustery winter night, and I watched as my friends walked off into the darkness to a hidden, wet, cold camp, while we went home to a warm bed,” Linda said. “I had to do something.”
In addition to her volunteer work, Linda is an experienced real estate agent. She had an idea to create a village of tiny houses to make sure no one slept outside on her watch!
Linda teamed up with fellow philanthropist Nate Schleuter, and together they started fundraising. No stone was left unturned. Linda began by appealing to her fellow realtors in the area before branching out to local businesses and churches.
Using these donations, Linda purchased a nearby abandoned trailer park that already had the infrastructure in place for the village. By February 2019, they’d erected 31 tiny homes and found residents for each one. Eden Village quickly became a success with both the residents and their neighbors!
Each home costs $42,000 to build, and all the residents pay $300 per month to live there. They must be good neighbors in order to stay at Eden Village, and they certainly are! Linda was delighted when she learned that the village actually increased local property values rather than lowering them as some people feared.
At the heart of the village is a 4,000-square foot community center. Residents often gather there to do their laundry, have cookouts, and visit with health care volunteers.
Daniel Creighton has lived in Eden Village since the start. He said having a safe, stable home has changed his life.
“We’ve done a complete 180. We went from life on the streets of drugs and meth,” he said. “We’ve been off the meth for — we’re going on five years. We have established a home, I have a good job.”
Linda hasn’t stopped working since Eden Village began. A second village opened in the fall of 2020, and there’s a third location in the works as well! She hopes to have five villages across Springfield within the next five years, helping more than 200 homeless people get off the streets and into a new life.
To this day, Linda firmly believes that there are a million reasons someone can become homeless, but each of them can be solved with love, stability, and community involvement.
“They all have stories about why they’re homeless,” Linda said. “They’re all human beings just like us. Sometimes, it’s just someone showing they care that can make all the difference.”
Linda, we are in awe of you! Eden Village is a wonderful example of how communities can help their homeless neighbors regain stability.
Share Linda’s story to encourage efforts like this in your own neighborhood.
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