Work is set to begin this summer on Springfield’s third community to house the chronically homeless.
The Gathering Tree Inc.’s Eden Village 3 will be a duplex tiny home community located at 2419 W. High in the Tom Watkins neighborhood. The site is already zoned for duplexes, said Chief Visionary Officer Nate Schlueter.
“We’ll hopefully start clearing land in July and complete the first phase, which will be 24 400-square-foot units,” by the end of 2023,” Schlueter said.
Each unit will have one bedroom and one bathroom. The community itself will be modeled after Eden Village 2 in the Bissett neighborhood, which is a gated community with security cameras, a community center, tornado shelter and a neighborhood council. Eden Village 2 is an active member of the Bissett Neighborhood Association, allowing the association to use its community center for neighborhood association meetings and participating in the annual neighborhood cleanups.
Former Bissett Neighborhood Association President Pete Radecki reflected on the neighborhood’s experience with Eden Village 2:
“Over a year before Eden Village 2 began on site development, representatives of the Bissett Neighborhood Association met with The Gathering Tree leadership to learn about their plans. We outlined our findings at a BNA general membership meeting during which we obtained questions that the membership had. The questions touched on possible fears of the planned facility becoming a haven for homeless vagrants, concerns about possible incidents, quality of the planned facility, and expectations that the program would be supported effectively over the long haul. The responses we got were satisfactory, but it is one thing to say, another to do. Now after the facility having been opened for some time, we can say that what they said turned out to be accurate.
Bissett is home to an attractive community of formerly homeless individuals who have become contributors to the community. BNA typically holds its general membership meetings at the EV2 Community Room, and tomorrow we expect some residents and staff will be on hand to help out with our annual neighborhood cleanup. For our part, BNA was successful in obtaining Neighborhood Works funding to improve pedestrian access that directly benefits EV2, and will look for other ways in which we can help support the effort.
To Tom Watkins, I would say, have discussion with your residents. Find out their concerns and discuss them with the EV3 leadership. Tour EV1 and EV2 and see for yourself what you can expect. I think EV2 and its residents have become valued members of our neighborhood. Like any long-term relationship, good relations take effort and communication. We are in the early stages of that relationship with EV2, and it is going well. Helping those in need and making them feel a part of our neighborhood make for a better, more sharing community, and ultimately a better Springfield.”
The Gathering Tree has a waiting list of more than 200 people for the tiny homes. The organization has a multistep process for determining who gets a home in the communities. Precedence is given to the terminally ill and veterans, Schlueter said.
“Our residents must have been homeless for a year and have the ability to pay rent,” he said.
He noted that The Gathering Tree looks forward to building a relationship with Tom Watkins neighbors similar to how Eden Village 2, which opened in 2020, has with Bissett neighbors. Eden Village 1 opened in 2018 at 2801 E. Division. Each unit costs about $45,000. The Gathering Tree seeks sponsors for each home in the Eden Village communities, which are not limited to Springfield.
Schleuter said the organization has “franchised” communities in Wilmington, North Carolina; Kansas City, Kansas; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Mountain Home, Arkansas; Excelsior Springs; Phoenix, Arizona; Richmond, Virginia; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; and Warrenton, Virginia.
“Our villages are now a proven model, so they have gotten easier and easier to bring forward,” Schlueter said. “We look forward to working with our neighbors in Tom Watkins.”