The country is not kind to the homeless. Across the country, especially in major cities, one can find a variety of structures designed to dissuade the homeless from occupying that space. This could mean anything from raised metal lines across flat surfaces to stop the homeless from sleeping in that spot, to triangular cages around fire hydrants so no one can sit on it.
No matter what one did in life, no one deserves to live without shelter, and there are some people who actively work to solve that problem, like Missouri realtor Linda Brown and her husband, David.
For nine years, the Browns organized and executed a nightly drop-in shelter for the homeless population in Springfield to eat, shower, do laundry, socialize, and even use a computer. While this act of kindness is inspiring on its own, the Browns wanted to take it a step further and truly make a positive impact on the lives of others.
Linda Brown in Eden Village. Credit: Linda Brown.
“I watched as my (homeless) friends walked off into the darkness to a hidden, wet, cold camp while we went home to a warm bed,” Brown told the National Association of Realtors, where she was honored the Good Neighbor Award in 2020. “I had to do something.”
Using her realtor prowess, Linda Brown was able to take an abandoned, 4.2 acre mobile home property and develop it into a village of tiny homes. The development of 31 homes provides permanent housing to the chronically disabled homeless. With a large community center on the property, conversation and companionship is fostered between individuals who truly understand what the other has gone through—one of the best ways to fight one’s battles and recover.
To create a village takes a village. Sponsorship money was collected from Coldwell Banker, the Greater Springfield Board of Realtors, local banks, churches, and area residents alike—equaling a whopping $4.75 million, all of which went to the creation and maintenance of Brown’s Eden Village.
Each tiny home cost around $40,000 to make. The 400-square-foot homes are provided to those in need fully furnished, down to dishes and bedding. All residents pay is $300 a month. With each of Eden’s homes filled, chronic homelessness in Springfield was reduced 14%.
Even there, Linda Brown refuses to stop. She had made it her mission to ensure no one sleeps on the streets in her city. A second Eden Village is in progress, where 24 more homeless individuals will be able to find respite. Over the next six years, Brown plans to have opened five villages across the city, hosting 200 people.
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Linda Brown with an Eden Village resident. Credit: Linda Brown.
“It takes someone who wants to do something, and then believes they can. I’ve watched Linda Brown live that out,” says Nate Schleuter, a fellow developer of tiny-home villages. “It’s exciting to watch the homeless who thought they’d live the rest of their life on the street now have a home.”
Those who have benefited from Brown’s kindness have quite literally been handed a second chance at life. Many have managed to maintain sobriety, get jobs, and even get married at Eden Village. Among these people is Jonathan Fischer, one of the first to occupy Eden Village.
“In the worst moments of my life, Linda gave me guidance, care, and made me feel like I was still worth something,” he says. He even works for Brown full-time as a construction and maintenance worker now. “She helped me to build a better life. Even when I was struggling with homelessness and sobriety, she showed me I was valuable and that my potential shouldn’t be wasted. She made me feel like I belonged somewhere.”
Other cities have taken notice of Brown’s work and are looking to develop their own Eden Villages. Learn how you can make an impact on your local area, or on Brown’s Eden Village, by visiting the non-profit site.
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