WILMINGTON, N.C. (AP) — Rain throughout the morning on Oct. 9 didn’t stop a group of about 100 people from gathering to volunteer and celebrate the groundbreaking for a new community coming to Wilmington — a tiny home village serving chronically homeless people.
Organizers offered tours of a tiny home model, shared words and prayers with those in attendance and concluded the event with lunch as behind them, volunteers who had been at the site all morning in the rain worked to put up 500 feet of fence around the 4-acre lot at 1302 Kornegay Ave that will eventually hold 32 tiny homes. Community leaders participated in an official groundbreaking for a community center set to be built in the center of the new village.
“Our homeless friends are in the rain every day,” said David Brown who started the first Eden Village tiny home community in Springfield, Missouri. “We can surely come out a few hours, then we can go home and dry off. It’s a no-brainer, really.”
Organizers in Wilmington picked up Brown’s tiny home village model to provide housing for those who have been homeless for more than a year. The project will cost $4.3 million and is funded entirely by donations. The homes are expected to be installed before the winter of 2022.
The 400-square-foot tiny homes are built offsite and shipped into Wilmington on trailers. Eden Village of WilmingtonPresident Thomas Dalton said they expect to receive and install four homes each month starting in December. The community center will include access to computers and Wi-Fi, a library, laundry room, and clubhouse, and the village will have a one-acre community garden on site.
“The home is essential, but when you put somebody in a home that doesn’t have community, it doesn’t work,” Brown said, “so having the community and bringing the amenities to them is what makes this work.”
Each home fits a single adult resident, and residents are expected to pay a portion of the rent each month.
Eden Village was founded in Springfield, Missouri, 11 years ago, and the first tiny home village began accepting residents in Springfield in 2018. In 2020, a second Eden Village opened in Springfield, and the two communities decreased the city’s chronically homeless population by around 25%, according to its website. Wilmington will be the first Eden Village outside of Springfield.
“It’s exciting for us to know that we started something that is now going nationwide,” Brown said.
Eden Village of Wilmington already has 300 applicants, though it has not officially opened up applications. The village partners with social workers and other organizations in the community to help find housing for those in need while the village is under construction, though Eden Village will not officially select residents for its tiny homes for a while.
Eligible applicants must have been homeless for more than a year, and Eden Village is working with healthcare leaders to identify homeless individuals with chronic illnesses as well.
“Housing is healthcare,” Dalton said. “It’s an important aspect. It’s very hard to heal when you’re living on the streets.”
Once the village is ready to select residents, those in need can submit applications, and then leaders with Eden Village will meet with them to see their current living situation and determine if they will be a good fit for the tiny home community setting.
A donor to Eden Village has committed to match every dollar contributed through 2021 up to $600,000. Donations can be made at edenvillagewilmington.org. The website also includes information on how to volunteer and frequently asked questions about the tiny home village, as well as a link to the official site for the Eden Village Headquarters.
“This has been the most humbling experience of my personal life,” Dalton said. “Sitting in this house with the leaders of this city, with our community friends, with folks who are in need, the people that have been involved in this, that is by far the best thing we have ever been a part of.”