|Project Goal||The proposed project is the construction and ongoing development of a community gardening space for recently homeless veterans and local community members situated at Sunnyside Baptist Church, which is located in the Westmont neighborhood of South Los Angeles.
According to LAHSA statistics as recently as July 2018, South Los Angeles (where Westmont is situated) has the third highest number of homeless veterans (448) and the second highest number of chronically homeless individuals (8,343) Nicknamed “murder row,” there also exists significant crime and gang-related activity in Westmont, thus the need for a sense of community and belonging is critical, especially for the younger generations of its residents. The pastor of Sunnyside Baptist Church has shared that access to fresh food in this community is limited, as are opportunities for youth to work together collaboratively, as the Westmont/South Vermont community has a shortage of economic opportunities for individuals that promote civic engagement and wellbeing. Community gardening in low-income areas is a low-cost, high-yield, empowerment-driven platform to provide long-term impact on health and wellness through making fresh food accessible to all. Similarly, working in the soil with others has measurable health benefits and promotes a sense of fellowship between participants. For veterans who would be using this garden and may be disabled or unemployed, the space would provide opportunities to reduce isolation and give back to their communities, as well as promote a sense of belonging and engagement with their civilian neighbors – a feeling which is frequently missing from the lives of veterans struggling to reintegrate into the civilian world.
Within this project are plans for ongoing workshops, seminars, and activities led by local community members and individuals who can provide instruction to participants on growing their own food together. These educational gatherings would be made available to both the veterans and community members as a means to facilitate learning, shared responsibility, and a sense of community. Gardening is an accessible, intuitive, hands-on activity that is suitable for individuals of all ages, skill and ability levels, and cultural backgrounds. Gardening brings an individual in contact with the natural process of life and has been substantiated by empirical research to lead to reductions in stress and low mood states. Individuals who are not already engaged in wellness and health-related activities and programs will benefit from the fresh fruits and vegetables that will grow from this project, and have the opportunity to sell, donate, and exchange their produce, further incentivizing their participation in the garden as a means to earn extra income and give back to their community. |