GRACE Grows is a program designed to empower individuals experiencing homelessness through horticultural therapy, education, access to fresh vegetables, and community development. We are a completely volunteer based project. We strive to provide a space where people can come together to interact with nature, grow their own garden, and find community. Many guests of the shelter express that the garden is their reprieve from chaos and that they learn more through working the garden than they thought possible. There are two parts of our program, both centered around the garden. One is the therapeutic time spent in the community garden which offers a myriad of physical and mental health benefits for an underserved population. The second is the vocational course to help those who are unemployed and homeless.
Why this is valuable: we are providing a vocational program that offers a credential to people who badly need employment. This enhances the evidence-based approach to ending homelessness currently being utilized by the shelter that we assist, GRACE Marketplace. We are currently collaborating with the University of Florida’s Doctor of Plant Medicine Department for Phd students to teach the course.
This same certification has been used to teach people with learning disabilities locally and with people in a prison in Florida successfully. This is particularly important because GRACE Marketplace is a low barrier shelter which means there are more homeless folks who have criminal records and learning disabilities. Our approach is unique in that we combine the therapeutic aspect of gardening and growing fresh food, with case management, and assistance with job placement. Thus, we are covering our bases as well as possible for this particular demographic.
We believe that success is more imminent when we incorporate a diverse subset of citizens to work towards empowering one another through service and education.
Funded by Gainesville, FL (July 2019)