Tom Dalton is an anesthesiologist in Wilmington, North Carolina. The voicemail greeting on his cell phone says that he is probably busy putting someone to sleep, or waking them up. Spending most of his time in hospitals, Dalton says he realized that many of the same people were returning for emergency medical care again and again. Many were chronically homeless and had a disability. After performing surgeries on some of those people, Dalton says, the hospital was releasing them to recover, as best they could, in a group shelter, or on the street. In the hospital where he works, Dalton says, chronically homeless people can be admitted 40 to 50 times a year. One man was admitted 246 times in a three-year period. Without individual housing, health problems can fester; the life expectancy for people who experience homelessness for long durations is much lower than the average. Now, Dalton and his wife, a nurse, are pushing forward with a plan to help house people with disabilities who experience chronic homelessness.
The project is called Eden Village, a community of 32 tiny homes in Wilmington for people who have experienced homelessness for at least one year and who have a physical or mental disability. The village, gated and pedestrian-only, is being built on a four-acre site adjacent to a planned Salvation Army complex, Dalton says. The land was sold to the group at about a third less than the market rate. The complex is only for single adults. Residents will pay $300 a month for rent and utilities, and as long as they observe the community rules, they can stay forever.
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