A homeless shelter in Atlanta has started a rooftop garden run by the residents that harvests the produce and uses it to feed other residents.
In an effort to help the homeless community in Atlanta, Georgia, the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless has begun an organic and sustainable rooftop garden that is run by the homeless residents and used to also feed the residents.
Last year, their first harvest yielded 55 pounds of fresh food from their 80 raised beds, including lettuces, radishes, watermelons, tomatoes and much, much more. A long-time volunteer of the Task Force who has essentially led the program since the beginning, Carl Hartrampf, said that,
“The idea is to produce enough to feed the residents something green and healthy daily.”
Though feeding the 400 residents at the shelter may be the main goal, the garden and shelter serve a number of purposes that help its residents and the homeless population overall. Hartrampf also said that, “We provide services, training, and certification for the residents. The residents are involved in everything we do. They really run the organization.” In a world where job training, opportunities, and fresh food are not readily available to homeless people, this program provides immeasurable benefits to the residents. The certifications and job experiences the residents can gather from working here varies widely and includes certification in entrepreneurial farming and marketing and urban farming. Participants also have the opportunity to be in a leadership position by training future participants. The benefits also include therapy, fresh food, a lesson in patience and gentleness with the plants, reflection, and responsibility.
As far as helping the homeless community overall, Anita Beaty, the director of the organization, told Vice, “Part of the conventional way homelessness has been addressed has been to emphasize fixing people instead of the conditions that cause poverty.” The rooftop garden is an effort to combat this conventional way of thinking by addressing the causes of homelessness, which she believes are extreme poverty and a lack of access to affordable housing, and allowing their residents to get experience for employment and learn valuable skills to combat the stigma that there is something wrong with homeless people.
In addition to learning gardening practices, the residents learn how to irrigate and harvest rainwater and are now working with a bee hive that was donated by the Atlanta Bee Club. The rainwater and bees not only make the garden more sustainable, but the bees also produced honey last fall.
The shelter also has future projects in the works, including a plan to refurbish the roof of the building next door and building a kitchen at the shelter to prepare the food themselves. As the shelter grows, so do the opportunities for residents to learn new skills.
Urban farming has been on the rise in recent years and although it has typically been associated with hipsters and people who have the money and time to maintain an urban garden, this shelter is repurposing this stereotype about the kind of people who farm in the city. This rooftop garden provides a range of benefits to its homeless residents and should be an example to homeless shelters everywhere looking for a way help their residents. Check out the Task Force’s website to see how you can help or read Atlanta’s Progressive News’ article on the program to see testimonies from residents!
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