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Gardening With The Homeless & The Mad

  • Subject: [cg] Gardening With The Homeless & The Mad
  • From: Adam36055@aol.com
  • Date: Thu, 1 May 2003 10:26:53 EDT


Doing a kind of horticulture therapy program in a community garden with 
homeless people, many of whom, when they are not in a stablizing shelter 
situation (is this an oxymoron?) have their faculties compromised by drugs, 
alcohol, madness - or all three - is a daunting challenge. 

We have three residential programs on the block of the CCG ( Fountain House, 
Project Return and a program for HIV positive, undomiciled teenagers).  These 
folks have garden keys at their centers and I'm happy to say that there have 
been no serious program client issues over the last 25 years in the garden. 
Generally, it has been some neighborhood folks who say, "that man is kind of 
scary looking, or "You let those people in here?"

However, using a CG as a place to invite untreated, wild card homeless folks 
is a risky business, especially if you don't have allied service agencies 
allied with your effort.  I could see, for example, a community garden 
attached to a homeless shelter, soup kitchen, or residential program as being 
a valuable adjunct to their work.  Especially if the homeless folks were 
working alongside folks who still have jobs, homes, families and most of 
their faculties...This would have a humanizing effect on the undomiciled and 
the luck ones who still have a roof over their heads...

It would be hard, however, to keep it going because of myriad people 
problems, not impossible.

Best wishes,
Adam Honigman 

<< Now, my question. I'm working with a garden for
 homeless folks. The typical rules and dues structure
 that works quite well for many community gardens (see
 the by-laws on the ACGA website) won't work here.
 Anybody got any ideas to share on how to structure the
 organization and encourage 'buy-in' in a garden where
 people have no home? There is no doubt in my mind,
 though, that this garden fills a very important need,
 giving folks a place to connect with the soil. For
 some, expecially immigrants from farm backgrounds, it
 is a godsend. >>

The American Community Gardening Association listserve is only one of ACGA's services to community gardeners. To learn more about the ACGA and to find out how to join, please go to http://www.communitygarden.org

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