How Eden Village Came To Be
In the fall of 2010, ten individuals from a local church combined efforts to form The Gathering Tree in Springfield, MO, an organization focused on serving the city’s homeless population. The Gathering Tree opened its doors multiple nights a week to give the homeless a place to rest and refresh from the afternoon to evening hours.
Throughout its time of operation, it allowed the founders to gain helpful insight as to the best way to serve the homeless community. As a result of this experience, they came to the realization that while there were many organizations focused on serving those living on the streets, there were few focused on getting them off the streets.
On November 1, 2018, the Gathering Tree closed its doors and began to concentrate all efforts and resources on the concept to create a long-term solution to homelessness: Eden Village.
Enough funding had been collected through grants and pledges to begin construction of Eden Village West. Anticipated to open in late fall 2020, 24 more homeless individuals will be placed into permanent homes. Upon its completion, the two Eden Village properties will have reduced the chronically homeless population in Springfield by 25%.
Eden Village is recognized across the country as a model that can be replicated in any city. Multiple cities across the United States and internationally have made inquiries about the Eden Village model and starting an Eden Village in their city. Eden Village has expanded its development services to offer consultation and licensing to other cities hoping to create an Eden Village in their community.
The land at 3155 East Brower in Springfield which had been an old trailer park was purchased and donated to Eden Village. Eden Village quickly began developing plans and launched a capital campaign to not only develop the second village, but to continue growth to create a city where no one sleeps outside.
With 32 residents housed on property, Eden Village was successfully completed. At this point in time, the number of chronically homeless in Springfield was reduced by 14%. This number was significant, but there were many more homeless individuals. It became quickly apparent that the work wasn’t done. The vision grew to work toward a city where #NoOneSleepsOutside. Eden Village set out to build more properties soon.
From December to August, the bulk of the construction was completed and on August 28, the Grand Opening of Eden Village was held before a large crowd of supporters and dignitaries. Fourteen houses were on site and the first resident was handed a key to his new home to take up permanent residence and no longer homeless.
Three homes were on site and with advancement in infrastructure development and funding. The formal groundbreaking was held, and construction of the community building started.
The first house was purchased, brought on site, set up and decorated. A formal open house was held along with a blessing by the Bishop of the local Catholic Diocese. Finally, Eden Village was a tangible entity of the vision that had been shared for several months.
Land was purchased and the formal announcement for the Eden Village Community was made public. For the next several months, many meetings were held, and multiple speaking engagements were held sharing the vision of Eden Village throughout the community.
The Gathering Tree reopened its evening drop-in center, but more as a coffee shop/library venue. They were able to rest, play card games, use computers, sing karaoke, partake in a bingo evening, take a shower and continue to get essentials they needed to survive on the street.
The Gathering Tree did not renew the lease and took some time off to reassess and redefine its purpose. David, Linda and a few key individuals continued ministering to their homeless friends a couple evenings a week passing out “Brown Bags” of food and other essential items. They were able to continue their relationships with their friends who were truly homeless.
The Gathering Tree obtained a two-year lease for their own facility and were able to expand the hours to five evenings a week with the help of many individuals and several organizations. Meals were provided along with essential items such as clothing, personal care items and survival gear. As many as 150+ individuals were served during these evenings.
After the first year, The Gathering Tree moved to a different location in the downtown area of Springfield. During this second year, several more individuals became involved in ministering to the homeless and serving meals. They were also able to meet some of the essential needs of their friends.
David and Linda Brown saw a need for a drop-in center for the homeless in downtown Springfield during the early evening hours. Together with some friends, they opened one evening a week at The Front Porch, a venue in the heart of downtown. The purpose was two-fold. First, was to provide a safe place for homeless persons to get off the streets for a few hours. Second, was to build relationships and gain a firsthand understanding of homelessness.