Homelessness is a major problem in America and it seems to be getting worse. In 2017, rates rose for the first time since the Great Depression. People become homeless for a variety of reasons and once without a permanent address, finding decent work is nearly impossible. No one solution is enough to solve the problem and the homeless are often looked down, even despised. What can be done? Farming and gardening can help.
The Homeless Garden Project
Located in Santa Cruz County, the Homeless Garden Project tackles the issue of homelessness with a rake and till. Designed for people without homes or those formerly homeless and still experiencing issues finding employment, the organization takes its business seriously. Program members receive transitional employment and essential job skills, and a community that respects them.
The HGP utilizes a Community Supported Agriculture program, or CSA, which generates 10% of the org’s income. There’s a more direct relationship between the farmer and consumer, which includes a U-pick and scholarship fund. Flowers from the garden are sent to a hospice program, while other goods like jams and seasonings are sold in a brick-and-mortar store and online, so if you want to support them, click here.
The Berkeley Food Institute also recently named HGP’s farm manager, Anthony Reyes, one of California’s Emerging Food Systems Leaders.
Redland Community Farm and Market (formerly Verde Farm)
When Hurricane Andrew destroyed a military base, a sustainable community was born. Then known as Verde Gardens, the organic farm and year-round farmers market provided job training and providing social services to help people get off the street and back into the life they wanted. Projects included a restaurant whose revenue went to paying wages and establishing townhouses on the property.
In January of 2018, Redland Ahead took over the farm from Carrfour Supportive Housing. The Redland Ahead nonprofit has a history of supporting agriculture and assisting groups that need help, like veterans. Their goals included improved fencing, refrigeration, and buying chickens, goats, and sheep. If you find yourself in Homestead, Florida, be sure to head over to their 7-days-a-week farmers market for fresh produce, key lime pies, and kombucha.
Kiyoko Ojima’s school of farming
Using farming to help homeless people isn’t exclusive to North America. In Japan, homelessness makes finding employment very difficult. According to a 2016 survey, homeless men are the most affected. Kiyoko Ojima is working to address the problem. Ever since her younger days, Ojima wanted to be a farmer. She combined her passion with education and experience working for organic agriculture firms. After meeting a homeless man on her way to class, she learned how he struggled to find employment without an address or phone number. It wasn’t about motivation; he was eager to do whatever he could, but he had such limited options. That chance meeting inspired Ojima to take action.
In 2013, Ojima launched her NPO No school, or Agriculture school, to train those struggling to find jobs. She wants to empower people. Every April, a diverse group – some as young as 20 and others in their 60’s – arrives at the 10,000-square-meter field. Over the next six months, they learn how to farm and work as a team. Many find permanent employment as farmers. In 2017, the agriculture ministry gave Ojima a social impact award.
Farming and gardening not only help the homeless and disadvantaged earn a living and learn skills, they’ve been shown to improve a person’s mental health! Here’s how.