Sunny Side of The Stream: Tiny Houses Provide Homes for Formerly Homeless Individuals
A privilege to report on this innovative ministry addressing homelessness
Eden Village communities have saved homeless people from “over 40,000 nights” outside on streets. 3 tiny home villages are open currently—2 in Springfield & 1 in Wilmington, NC—w/ a dozen others in process https://t.co/mfefeE199t
— Josh M Shepherd (@JoshMShep) March 2, 2023
I thought it was a beautiful idea and started looking into it. A couple, David and Linda Brown, are behind Eden Villages. When they retired, as one writer reports, they got an apartment and started to get to know the homeless people that lived around them. They opened a place called The Gathering Tree to provide a place for their homeless neighbors to gather in the evenings, and kept it going for seven years.
In 2016 the Browns began to work on creating housing for their friends. They bought an abandoned mobile home park and built tiny houses and a community center on it. The community center offers medical and mental health services. It became the first Eden Village: supportive, permanent housing for the formerly homeless. There are now three Eden Villages and a dozen in progress, Shepherd reports. To teach others how to start Eden Villages, Eden Village staff are hosting conferences, called No One Sleeps Outside Conference, in April and June.
The people behind Eden Villages are Christians, but residents don’t have to be. Shepherd reports, “Eden Village communities offer what [Nate Schlueter, chief visionary officer] calls ‘biblically based addiction recovery classes’ along with art classes, game nights, and other social activities. But he says participation is voluntary.”
Revive 66 Campgrounds
The Gathering Tree, now the name of the Brown’s nonprofit, has also implemented another concept to shelter the homeless: Revive 66 campgrounds.
This concept uses small, one-person, solar-powered campers to provide a warm bed for cold, winter nights for $10 a night. The report above, which was made before the first Revive 66 campground opened, said the campground would have showers and laundry capabilities.
Other People and Ministries are Doing This
As I was watching videos about Eden Village, YouTube started suggesting videos of other, similar concepts of tiny home communities for the homeless. I watched video after video, amazed by this idea. The thing I love most is the community aspect. People are able to not only have their own place with a lock on the front door — independence and safety — but they’re able to start this new life living next door to others who have similar experiences of homelessness. This video shows the warm welcome a lady named Jean received from her fellow residents when she first came to Eden Village. “You’re home,” she was told.
This video profiles Opportunity Village in Eugene, Oregon. The community is governed by its residents, who can stay for two years:
When finding housing became difficult, the creators of Opportunity Village created Emerald Village, a long-term tiny-home affordable housing community. That long-term community is featured here:
One of the residents of Emerald Village comments in the video: “After having spent my whole life working and being a productive member of society and contributing to this great country, I found myself being marginalized and treated as a second-class citizen, given nothing but hassles because I couldn’t afford to pay rent. I had an income — just wasn’t enough. And this I can afford. This I can live in. And I’m so thankful for having this place to live in. And I have my doggie.”
Second Wind Village
A man in New York built nine tiny houses on his property to house men who had been homeless:
Community First! Village
A ministry called Mobile Loaves & Fishes built Community First! Village, which is a beautiful place that reportedly housed 200 people when this video came out in 2020:
I particularly like the interview with the inn-keeper’s wife. She explains how, as inn keepers, they oversee the part of the property that is dedicated to those who want to visit for at least two nights and learn about the community. People who visit the bed and breakfast (it’s on Airbnb) are asked to pick an activity, like gardening, and pay one of the residents to guide them through an experience of that part of the community. Besides a garden, the village has an amphitheater, animals like donkeys and goats, a blacksmith shop, a woodworking shop, a car care shop, an art house where residents can make art, and a market that sells simple groceries and the creations of the residents. See their official tour here:
God Sets the Lonely in Families
Putting people into not just homes, but flourishing communities, reminds me of a line in Psalm 68: “God sets the lonely in families.” Overall, I love the care for individuals combined with the simplicity of lifestyle that comes with tiny homes. There’s room for privacy and security and there’s room to develop deep relationships. These communities provide people with what they need while also emphasizing relationships over big houses and many possessions. Friendship and community are seedbeds for the Gospel and discipleship, so these communities are a place where people can flourish on the deepest of levels. I hope this beautiful idea — tiny home communities for the formerly homeless — will continue to spread.