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Homelessness and gardening

  • Subject: [cg] Homelessness and gardening
  • From: "Jodi Rhoden" <rhoden@main.nc.us>
  • Date: Thu, 19 Aug 2004 19:18:38 -0400
  • Importance: Normal

I suggest that you talk to the individuals who are sleeping in the senior
center landscaping.  Its amazing how far a little communication goes, and
its amazing how most of us who work on these issues often do everything
imaginable EXCEPT involve homeless people themselves in the decisions that
effect their lives.  Consider a compromise:  "we would like this to be used
as a community space; feel welcome to be here but you must help us keep it
clean and safe for everyone."
The shelter is not an appropriate solution for many homeless people.  Most
shelters are fundamentalist christian-based, which often means that homeless
people can not get a meal without being preached to or condescended to, and
most are single-gender only, which prevents families and partners from being
able to sleep together; many people work and are unable to line up at the
shelter at 2 or 4 pm to reserve a bed at night; disease and theft are
rampant, and many simply do not feel that shelters are safe or healthy
places for them.  Some people choose to sleep outside, and that is their
In our community garden here in Asheville, NC, we have never discouraged the
homeless from being in the garden, even sleeping there, and in return our
garden is respected and rarely disrupted by that community.  (in contrast,
the City, which takes a "war on the homeless" approach to seemingly every
dealing with that community, is consistently having to close down, lock up,
or otherwise remove public spaces that would otherwise benifit the whole
community)  There always have been and always will be litter problems in a
public space, but I feel that that is a small price to pay in comparison to
the potential to live in a community, not a maze of fences and closed doors.
I hope you will consider at least trying this approach before you take a
"not in my backyard" stance to homelessness.  Being poor is not a crime, and
neither is being an addict, as some homeless people are.  The problem will
not be solved by pushing the homeless further out of society and making them
Jodi Rhoden
Bountiful Cities Project
Asheville, NC

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