A Green Community Is Growing At Supportive Housing

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This summer Chloe and Khadija had the opportunity to visit the gardens of the House of Friendship’s Supportive Housing Programs. You may remember in the spring we shared a lot about gardens at House of Friendship.

Chloe and Khadija met with Julie, who is the Garden Project leader at Supportive Housing this year.

11873911_945295595512704_427732146_nWhat Does Supportive Housing At House Of Friendship Look Like?

House of Friendship’s Supportive Housing Program has three buildings that are in close proximity and function together – Eby Village, Charles Village, and Cramer House. Support is facilitated with tenants in a variety of forms – all receive geared to income rent and access to one on one life skills and group activities. The buildings are interconnected by a team of staff, shared programming and a Tenant Council.

Eby Village is the largest building, housing 64 tenants in one to two bedroom apartments.  Charles Village houses 22 people in one bedroom apartments and has two accessible units. Cramer House has nine rooms available to men who require varied amounts of support, that share common living space.

In The Garden…

The transformation of the buildings to include gardens began three years ago. Eby Village has many small gardens and other inviting areas making the building look beautiful and vibrant. The residents are growing vegetables, berries, and herbs. Everything is there for the residents to enjoy. They have also made their backyard more appealing adding in flower gardens. And they even have a dog run, which residents from all three building can use!

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Julie shared with us that “At the beginning of the garden season the residents wanted to focus on the patio area behind Eby Village. They wanted to make it more inviting so residents would want to sit back there more. After a lot of work in that area, it is now a very inviting area to sit and enjoy the garden. Residents are very excited and happy with this success.”

Charles Village and Cramer House also have gardens, but due to some challenges-mainly construction and unfavorable conditions-gardening has not been easy this yea at Charles Village. Julie hopes to work more on these gardens in the future.

Gardening has a strong and positive personal affect on the residents. One resident shared that they were grateful that the combination of gardening and socializing helps them to focus since they have difficulty concentrating on a regular basis. Another resident mentioned that keeping the garden alive keeps them alive, as this takes a lot of responsibility and care. And a third resident said that watering the gardens is therapeutic for them. It is clear that the garden personally benefits the residents.

Growing More Than Food…

I spoke to a tenant, who has helped with a lot of the physical labour in the gardens, especially handling the mulch, which he knew a lot about. He loves how beautiful the gardens are and enjoys the meals that they are able to share!

Tending and caring for the gardens has allowed for more interactions between the residents of Eby Village, Charles Village, and Cramer House. Previously, much of the general programming was specific to each building. With the gardens, residents from every building can participate. Julie mentioned that the gardens are a great reason for the residents to move out of their comfort zones and enjoy the environment around them. It doesn’t matter if they have gardened before or have even heard of what is being grown – all skill and knowledge levels are welcome! Everyone has a chance to learn something new and to learn from each other.11912876_945295558846041_2088998048_n

Julie shared that “While I was doing some weeding with a resident, this resident voiced how excited it was to be challenged to do two things at once. This tenant was encouraged because normally being able to carry on a conversation and weeding at the same time was extremely difficult. This was a huge success. Another time, during a hard day of garden work two residents commented on how well they worked together as a team. This has started a friendship between them.”

Julie helps create activities with tenants that are interesting to everyone involved. On Thursday she holds gardening workshops for the residents where they discuss any issues or concerns and also learn about different gardening techniques and nutrition. They occasionally share a meal at this time, using the food that they have grown, something that the residents look forward to!

The learning aspect also draws in the residents. Tenants both mentioned that they like to learn about what is being grown, and enjoy participating in the workshops.

A resident, who has been a resident at Eby Village since it first opened 25 years ago, mentioned that she loved learning how to make kale chips, and enjoys making muffins using berries from the garden. She even distributes them to the construction workers down the street!

Especially at Eby Village weekly meetings are a time when tenants can enjoy food from the garden and they allow everyone to eat together. They also have an end of the year harvest celebration- a giant feast using all the fruits of their labour! Gardening gives the residents a sense of purpose, and something to feel proud of. They are able to care for something from its beginning, see it grow, and enjoy it afterwards.

The last resident we spoke to, loves planting seeds, and is excited to plant violets soon! She is glad to be gardening again, since her family had a garden growing up. She is also happy that gardening has brought the residents together.

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