A divorce left Wilmington resident Robbi Ellington homeless for four years.
But on Sept. 1, her circumstances greatly improved. That’s the day Ellington moved into Eden Village of Wilmington, a tiny-home community off Kornegay Avenue, which welcomed its last resident in October.
“You know, unless you’ve slept outside, you don’t understand,” Ellington said, trying to explain how much her new home means to her. “The first two weeks I was in the house, I slept on the couch with the door unlocked. I don’t know why, but locking the door just pinned me in. But I’m in the bed now.”
Giving a tour of her house, one of 31 in the gated enclave, Ellington pointed to cheerful paintings on her walls.
“We had a local artist who donated pictures for everybody’s house,” Ellington said. “She had a catalog that we got to choose our own pictures out of.”
The furnished 400-square-foot homes rent for $300 a month to homeless people, who are required to fill out an application and agree to the rules of the drug- and alcohol-free neighborhood.
“Some of them have been through some really tough times on the streets, and now they’re permanently housed,” said Shawn Hayes, the community’s executive director.
Eden Village of Wilmington has neighborhood amenities. A community center includes an area where residents can eat together and another where they can shop for groceries using points they earn by helping their neighbors.
Local anesthesiologist Tom Dalton and his wife, Kim, founded Eden Village of Wilmington, which is modeled after Eden Village of Springfield, Missouri, the Daltons’ hometown. The momentum started in January 2020, when “a group of about 30 homeless advocates and interested medical personnel convened to discuss the possibility” of creating such a community, according to the timeline on Eden Village’s website.
Village officials are now planning to create more tiny-home neighborhoods.
“We’re looking for land constantly, and we have a couple of prospects,” Hayes said Oct. 11.
Ellington said she welcomes the idea of more Eden Villages.
“They say people come in every day that need a place to be. Eden Village is a second chance,” Ellington said. “It’s not just a house. It’s a home.”