This post is by Robin Burgess of the Northampton charity Hope. I’ve written many times about the psychological benefits of gardening and especially allotmenting, Northampton Charity – Hope are taking things further and using gardening to help people lift themselves out of poverty and homelessness.
Northampton Hope Centre: Community Gardening at Hope
Hope is a local charity in Northampton which aims to make a practical difference by helping people in poverty and homelessness. We have been operating for 44 years, providing food, clothes, training, advice and activities to help people in need cope with complex problems associated with social exclusion, disadvantage and poverty, including alcohol, drugs and mental health.
We provide activities for people to help fill their time, improve self-esteem and confidence, and to increase skills. One of these is gardening and we are really trying to develop this area of work.
We have three gardens at present, which offer a mix of therapeutic gardening, community garden maintenance and very serious veg and salad growing.
One area is adjacent to our day centre for the homeless and it provides a place where our users can get in the fresh area, socialise, bring their dogs – and smoke! We try to make it a calming, beautiful environment, which reduces tensions and worries. Clients, along with corporate groups from locally based companies like Barclaycard, help us to maintain it, alongside our landlords, Midland Heart Housing Association. In good weather people really love the benefits of this area.
The second garden is a small patch, about 80 ft square, providing a community garden for older people and their visitors, in social housing run by Northampton Partnership Homes (NPH). Originally reclaimed from head high weeds by us, NPH, Groundwork and Ricoh volunteers, the garden is now solely maintained by people who attend the nearby day centre.
We hope to take on more area of this type and work the same magic for them. Local residents are really pleased to see the area reclaimed for use, and take advantage of what it offers. They acknowledge the good our service users have done and recognise that they are putting something back in – homeless people are not always a nuisance!
The Leicester St garden shows that homeless people can offer something back to the local community, volunteering to make a garden to be enjoyed by old people who cannot maintain, or do not have a garden of their own. The garden provides an oasis of peace and calm in the most deprived area of the town.
Both these projects have been rewarded with some gold and silver RHS medals in recent years through Britain in Bloom
The New Garden Plot
Our newest plot is a 0.4 acres area of allotments, cleared of ten feet high brambles and not used for a decade. On this site we will involve clients in horticultural training, grow lots of veg and salad for our day centre in a series of polytunnels, and provide veg for a new food co-op for families on low incomes.
The garden will reduce food miles, improve health, and offer some much needed urban agriculture in an area where there is none. We have brought an area of neglected allotments back into use, which without our work, may have led to the whole site being turned into housing. The allotment society, St Davids Northampton, are really pleased to be working with us.
Recycling Garden Tools
Our last gardening related project is our garden tool recycling project. This has been active for about 7 years and takes in old and broken tools, and with love and attention, turns them into beautiful, long lasting and good as new garden tools for the serious allotmenteer and gardener.
As well as giving a work opportunity for ex-homeless and disadvantaged people, the profit from sales is all recycled back into the charity.
Those local to Northampton are well advised to seek out the tools from Hope’s shop.
We are showing that with commitment, vision and hard work, homeless and other people in need can get productive and enjoy the benefits of gardening!
Contact Hope via 08455 199371 and visit our website: http://hopeenterprises.org.uk