RE: Community Greening and the Homeless
- Subject: RE: [cg] Community Greening and the Homeless
- From: "Jim Call" <email@example.com>
- Date: Thu, 19 Aug 2004 19:37:54 -0500
- Importance: Normal
Thanks for the responses.
I apologize for not mentioning that the local homeless shelter does not
admit anyone with alcohol or drug
related problems so most (if not all) of these individuals would have a
problem going there.
I guess a big gazebo surrounded by beautiful landscaping is very inviting.
Since a fence is out of the question (no funds available), this may be
solved by regular visits by the police
and picking up (litter and booze bottles) after them every morning. The
homeless are only present
after hours so there is no contact with the elderly at the center.
I agree with Dorene that a decision to remove all of the shrubs is totally
out of the question in this particular case.
I have recently learned that a multi-million defense complex located on our
local military base has decided to remove all of its landscaping surrounding
it as a result of 9/11. We live in a different world.
Jim in Alabama
[mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]On Behalf Of Alliums
Sent: Thursday, August 19, 2004 9:11 AM
To: ACGA Listserv
Subject: Re: [cg] Community Greening and the Homeless
>The Senior Center administration is now considering removing most of the
>landscaping because the
>homeless are sleeping in various plantings (pampas grass, etc.).
It amazes me how "folks in charge" are so quick to just remove landscaping
rather than alter it or work with the community to solve the larger problem
that is giving them THEIR problem. The idea that a landscape is not a
building, but can be altered, rather than removed to solve problems just
escapes these people unless the points are very carefully laid out. "Just
getting rid of it" is so much easier! Grrrrrrrrrrrr!
>There is a Homeless Shelter within 3 miles of this area with plenty of
This should be your first stop -- if they have lots of space to fill, it
behooves them to go out there and fill it -- otherwise, funding has a nasty
tendency to dry up. Invite them to have lunch with the Senior Center folks
-- the Shelter folks may be able to give tips on how to discourage the
homeless from the gazebo and into the shelter. Also, the shelter folks
might be able to give a "direct line" phone number to the Senior Center
folks so that when anyone sees homeless folks on the property, they can
call the Shelter and someone will come out and get them. (This has worked
very successfully for my mother for years -- her house's architecture
matches the church next door, so folks immediately assume it's a
parsonage. My mother has 24/7 access to the local Salvation Army post--
if someone comes to her door, she can promise them a Salvation Army officer
in minutes. Those who genuinely want help are grateful -- those who don't
tend to disappear and never come back.)
Next stop should be the local police. Politely (food from your garden or
flowers to brighten up the station always get you noticed) mention that
this is a problem and you'd really appreciate it if they would stop by
regularly and take those who want help to the Shelter and arrest the others
for public drunkness. Elderly people being menaced by drunks is bad PR, so
play up the angle.
Since you're finding booze bottles, another stop might be the local AA
chapters. They might be interested in offering help to these folks.
While you're talking to everyone, see if the shelter, police, AA offer
community service projects. Getting the homeless and/or alcoholics to do
community service on the property to clean up the litter and bottles can go
a long way toward getting the problem to disappear -- especially if the
Shelter offers community service. When the residents go back on the street,
they will NOT be happy with their peers junking up the place so that they
have to clean it every other day. (This is working great with the
adjudicated youth we work with in the garden -- they are constantly having
to tidy up and clean up after the little project kids and it makes them
realize just how much work this stuff generates such that they swear off
doing such things themselves AND tell the little project kids to knock it
Okay, as for the landscape itself, trimming the shrubs is good and lighting
will work if the police are asked to patrol regularly. You might also want
to add some nice perennials with truly vicious thorns (mock orange looks
lovely and is DEADLY!) and/or some annuals like cleome (people love them,
but gosh, those thorns are nasty -- surrounding my tomatoes with them has
really deterred the deer). Mulching with rock also looks nice and is very
bumpy to sleep on -- especially if you use sharp rocks!
>I never thought a landscape architect would have to consider issues such as
>this when designing a landscape.
Ha! Welcome to community space design. Whether it's the homeless or drug
dealers, one always has to plan how to attract the people you want to use
an open, relatively public space and how to discourage those you want to
simply move on. It's a multi-pronged process, but if you combine resources
in the community with "attractive, but nasty to sit on" landscaping,
everything should work out just fine.
Dorene Pasekoff, Coordinator
St. John's United Church of Christ Organic Community Garden
A mission of
St. John's United Church of Christ, 315 Gay Street, Phoenixville, PA 19460
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