JOPLIN, Mo. – In the works in Joplin is a village of tiny homes, a community center and more resources to meet the basic needs of the local homeless community. The movement will be volunteer-driven and rely on the good-hearted people of Joplin, along with the help of organizers and members of Joplin’s own homeless population.

Lincoln Heights Tiny Village aims to alleviate the hardships of being unhoused, provide shelter, get Joplin residents back on their feet and improve the city as a whole – benefiting everyone.

Located at 710 S. Minnesota Ave. where the Botany Shop Garden Center once was, organizers secured the property for six months to finalize the plan and show significant improvement. Their six month journey has just begun.

Today, December 29, members of the community spent their morning cleaning up the property, making a huge difference in a short amount of time.

Goals for Lincoln Heights Tiny Village

Organizer Joe Johnson was approached to help lead the Lincoln Heights Tiny Village movement. He says that previous solutions to homelessness have been like “putting band-aids on a hemorrhage.”

But this will be different.

The village plans to have a community center with a kitchen, set up like a café, with community dinners and events for anyone to attend. The center will have offices for individuals to speak with social workers and connect with other resources.

One building on the property will be a community shower and laundry area. Another will be for storage and donations, with a separate storage area for those without homes to store their belongings.

Organizers also hope to build a community garden for anyone to take advantage of, not just the residents of Lincoln Heights Tiny Village.

We want this to be a bright spot in the entire community of Joplin, not just something isolated for the homeless folks,” said Johnson.

And after the property undergoes six months of improvements, Lincoln Heights Tiny Village is hoping to begin offering tiny homes as shelter for the homeless community.

The basic shelter tiny homes will be “a place to land for six months or so and be able to launch from,” helping individuals reenter society.

Individuals who volunteer to help build the community will have first access to the tiny homes.

How it will function

Successful tiny villages for the unhoused are located all around the country, including Eden Village in Springfield, MO.

Lincoln Heights Tiny Village will run mainly on donations, with a foundation in place for that assistance to happen. The movement will be volunteer-driven with some paid employees for around the clock security, etc.

Builders, contractors and other individuals of the community have already reached out, ready to help restore the current structures.

The Lincoln Heights Tiny Village community will also rely on itself and its members to function.

Residing at the village will come with responsibilities, but will still allow individuals to come as they are, accepting faults and mental health issues.

Philosophy

“They think the homeless, the transient and the panhandlers are the problem… That’s not our problem. Our problem is the lack of involvement that we have with those people,” said organizer Jon Buck.

Using a step-by-step approach, the village will help its community members take their next step in life.

“All these other people are trying to solve this issue from the top down instead of from the bottom up. He [Johnson] got to experience from the bottom up. I don’t know what all these unhoused citizens want or what they need without asking questions,” said Buck.

Nine Lives Cat Lounge & Adoption Center, owned by Buck and his wife, organizes a walk around town every Sunday morning at 8 a.m. in which they are able to chat with the homeless population and help answer those questions.

“They were all telling me the same thing. They just wanted a place to get out of the weather, get some privacy, have a hot shower and a place to feel like they can be human,” Buck continued.

And Joplin’s current homeless shelters may not be right for everyone.

One individual, Travis Law, said he walked to the site of the future village sobbing, saying that this effort is so needed. Law says that he was recently kicked out of a local shelter for forgetting to take the trash out. He says he was 58 days clean at that point but when thrown back out on the street, resorted to his old ways.

“When they kicked me out, I went right back to my addiction,” said Law. “I hate this life. I’m begging to get off these streets… My addiction and my gambling addiction screwed my life completely up.”

How to get involved

Organizers want Lincoln Heights Tiny Village to be “something of beauty” for the entire community to be a part of. They don’t know exactly what that will look like, but they are taking it day by day, “building it in real time.”

The group is looking for as much input as possible to help local residents experiencing homelessness.

“We welcome the community to reach out to us with ideas, suggestions and concerns. It’s a lot more productive than just commenting on a Facebook post… We’re not opposed to talking to anybody,” said Johnson.

To combat homelessness and panhandling, support this movement. To get involved, join the Lincoln Heights Tiny Village Facebook group to stay updated on the process and join the cause.