Linda and David Brown
at Eden Village
In 2010, David and I moved to downtown Springfield, Missouri. We became very concerned when we saw homeless people wander the streets. With a small group of friends, we opened a place where we could offer coffee and doughnuts and get to know them, find out their story and build relationships. We called it The Gathering Tree because God is the roots, and the trunk and the branches are us and our friends, who are crooked, leafless and knobby, but together we make a beautiful tree.
No Money, Only Our Vision
We maintained TGT for about nine years, having to move from place to place because we were not welcomed, but we persevered, even doing street outreach until we finally found a permanent place. We had a drop-in-center for our homeless friends five nights a week where we
played Bingo, cards, karaoke, and developed lasting friendships, which became our family. We had computers, shower, laundry, coffee and snacks.
One cold blustery winter eve after closing at TGT and watching our friends go off to a hidden, wet, cold camp and while we went home to a warm bed, I said we have to do something more. We had no money but I had a vision of a tiny-home village where we could offer them a safe place so they could pull themselves up and live with dignity and self-worth. In February of 2016, God sent us Nate Schleuter who helped develop Community First in Austin.
We began searching for a place and found an abandoned mobile home park on 4.2 acres. David and I talked to churches, service clubs and other groups about our vision. A huge donation enabled us to put it on a loan for the park. Coldwell Banker stepped up and purchased our first home. Once that arrived, churches, homes and banks came forward and purchased or sponsored other homes. We named the park Eden Village. In August of 2018, we housed our first resident.
A Full-Service Community
Today we have 31 residents in a gated community to keep them safe. They can come and go as they please. We offer a 4,000 square-foot community center with a full kitchen, free laundry services, medical office and a staff of four. We also offer a workshop, community garden and a store where residents can earn products that cannot be obtained with food stamps. We have an above-ground storm shelter and a granite columbarium to inter our friends when they pass away, as most have no family, so they know they will be remembered.
The demographic we house are the Chronically Disabled Homeless as defined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. They have to be homeless for a year or more and have a medical disability, either mental or physical. Most have some form of mental diagnosis. They pay $300 per month rent, and that includes everything, no deposits.
We now have property for Eden Village 2 that will house 24 more of our friends by the end of 2020. It is definitely God’s Project, as He made it all possible. We have seen life changes as most of our residents have been there a year or more. It has been the most exciting journey as we watch God and trust His plan for our friends.
Our vision is that Springfield becomes a city where no one sleeps outside.
Linda Brown may be reached at www.gatheringtree.org.
Photos by Keshia Burks, Captured by K Photography,