"Agriculture is our wisest pursuit, because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals & happiness."Jefferson
Homelessness is a huge problem in the United States, but farming helps reduce it!
This was the opening statement in a recent article published in ‘Pure Green Blogs’, and it certainly caught the attention of the Socially Homes team, here at The Peoples Hub.
They share the same ambition and that is to tackle homelessness by any means possible.
While homelessness is a global issue, the reasons why people face homelessness is a global problem, and whilst homelessness presents differently country to country, the despair, hopelessness, and desperation associated with homelessness is often a common thread throughout.
The Socially Homes team are always exploring different avenues, searching for a solution, one we know for sure will work. Farming has been new concept to our team with projects springing in Newcastle and London, so we are keen to discover if there something to be learned from some of the experts in the USA.
We are never beyond a teachable moment, we are never afraid to replicate what is working well, admit what is not working well and more importantly we are never afraid to try what has never been done. Above all that we want to put individuals at the heart of all we do.
Nature or Nurture?
Reading further into the article farming is used to upskill people, offering skills and training that can be transferred to various other industries, so in tackling inequality, and discrimination of marginalised individuals, farming is used as tool to invite people in and nurture life- long skills that create a sense of belonging.
It could be argued this is the mission of every charity tackling homelessness, so what is it about farming that stands above the rest?
Is it nurture in that each individual can just be while working? They are not forced into the public eye under the umbrella of homelessness. They are not working from an establishment identifiable ‘for the homeless’, or is it down to the benefits of nature, we can never underestimate the power of nature.
The question we also want to ask is what can we do in UK to replicate the benefits and the success of this this programme. Who reports inspiring findings:
One farming rehabilitation program in Santa Cruz, California, has had so much success that 100% of its graduates in 2019 got jobs and 78% found housing.
Many homeless charities offer training and development as a means to long term employment, and hopefully housing, but how can we go a step further, think out-with the generic approach that already exist.
What can we do here in the UK and globally to increase nurture, tap into nature and offer a therapeutic approach to tackle unemployment and homelessness?
How can we support people in such a way that promotes inclusion and doesn’t leave people feeling even more polarised?
Can farming offer something unique as previously mentioned, in that it is not a café, shop, community establishment that’s sole purpose is tackle homelessness.
Is the success of the programme embedded in the fact people can join the workforce, without being seen and identified as homeless?
Is it that this project has many benefits to community, and they can foresee the difference they make, and this in turn allows them to reap intrinsic rewards along with making a difference?
These are just some of the questions we have when exploring new ways of working.
When you compare the results from farming to that of Homeboy Industries, the results speak the same language, but the setting is completely different.
Homeboy is identifiable as working with gang members, who often present with multiple issues, so what do they do tackle such issues, led by Father Gregory Boyle who promotes “no kinship, no peace” their mission is simple:
Homeboy Industries provides hope, training, and support to formerly gang-involved and previously incarcerated people, allowing them to redirect their lives and become contributing members of our community.
How do they achieve this?
Through storytelling, recovery, mentorship programmes, employment but more importantly through inclusion and humanising.
A native Angeleno and priest, from 1986 to 1992 Father Boyle served as pastor of Dolores Mission Church in Boyle Heights, then the poorest Catholic parish in Los Angeles that also had the highest concentration of gang activity in the city.
Father Boyle witnessed the devastating impact of gang violence on his community during the so-called “decade of death” that began in the late 1980s and peaked at 1,000 gang-related killings in 1992. In the face of law enforcement tactics and criminal justice policies of suppression and mass incarceration as the means to end gang violence, he and parish and community members adopted what was a radical approach at the time: treat gang members as human beings.
Moral of the story: “Always look beyond what you can see”Cooper, Mark A.