As many people do, Harlan Hill became familiar with Eden Village as a volunteer. He and his wife sometimes helped out at the tiny home community for homeless people at the Saturday morning volunteer events.
That led to the couple joining the Eden Village home teams, groups of four to five people who serve as mentors for the residents when they first transition into their new lives.
Hill, who recently resigned from his job as the city’s Building Development Services director, will continue to serve at Eden Village in a more official capacity — as CEO.
“My last day (with the city) was Friday the 14th,” Hill said. “Then I showed up at the volunteer day at the Brower Street property on Saturday morning. I kind of hit the ground running.”
Hill called his time volunteering as a home team member a “personally enriching experience.”
“To transfer yourself into their life and see life from their perspective — the discrimination that happens to them,” Hill said, “it just opened my eyes and my heart up to not being so judgmental.”
“Every person has a story. Every person has circumstances that they may or may not have been able to change,” Hill said. “They need people to surround them and love them.”
Eden Village I is a community of 31 tiny homes for disabled, chronically homeless people. It is located at 2801 E. Division St., the site of a former mobile home park.
Founders Dr. David and Linda Brown recently announced plans for an Eden Village II, located on five acres at 3155 W. Brower St. This property, too, was once a mobile home park and will have 24 tiny homes.
Since the properties are already zoned for manufactured homes, the Browns don’t have to worry about a zoning battle with the city. Eden Village I and II are operated by the Giving Tree, a nonprofit organization founded by the Browns in 2010.
The Browns hope to have Eden Village II completed and full by the end of 2020.
In a recent interview, David Brown spoke about the consulting business that was created due to the sheer number of inquiries from individuals and organizations who are interested in replicating the Eden Village model in their communities.
“It’s a prototype that works, and it’s becoming known nationally,” Brown said. “There are a couple of nationally known experts that have seen our village and said they never saw anything quite like it. It’s the model to do this.”
Hill, with his background as a licensed architect, said he will be advising and assisting these interested parties as they plan and develop Eden Villages in their communities. He will also be assisting in the day-to-day operations and business at the Springfield Eden Villages.
“Dr. Brown handles 100 percent of (the business operations) right now,” Hill said. “He is wanting to offload some of that responsibility and be more — I think the term he is using is ambassador for Eden Village and let me take on the managing of financials, oversee the staff and take care of the local operations.”
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Hill has more than 26 years of experience in the design and construction industry, having had his start in the 1990s with local architecture firms. His first stint with the city was from 1994 to about 2003. He started out as an inspector and worked his way to the project facilitator position with Building Development Services. He returned to that position in 2017.
In 2018, Hill was selected to be director of Building Development Services.
Hill said taking the CEO job at Eden Village, a newly created position, checked two of his boxes: his professional career goals and his personal convictions and beliefs to serve others and God.
“It just seemed like a natural fit,” Hill said. “With their national notoriety and expanding into other communities, they were in need for someone with my background and experience.”
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Hill said Eden Village is getting at least two to three inquires every week from different communities across the nation interested in the tiny home solution for homelessness.
“It is definitely a momentum and a wave I didn’t want to let pass me by,” he said. “If there is ever an opportunity and time, the time is now.”
Visit gatheringtree.org to learn more.
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