In the inner city of Cleveland on the west side of town, south of Lake Erie, is a concrete jungle that can be officially referred to as a ‘grocery desert.’ The need for permanent supportive housing in this area is huge. Front Steps Services is a multi-service organization that offers support for those without homes, many of whom need assistance with behavioral issues, substance abuse issues, and education.
A Safe Refuge and Healing
Mr. Matthew Anderson is the Director of Development at the Front Steps Services agency. He tells us that this homeless facility was originally St. Joseph’s commons, founded by four nuns from the St. Joseph’s congregation who provided services on the west side of Cleveland. The Front Steps agency blossomed from that original program, and is now located in a revamped Econo Lodge motor inn. In its brand new building, the organization houses 70 people in 68 one-unit efficiency apartments. Residents are those who are without permanent homes due to numerous circumstances, such as disconnection from family and other barriers that have labeled them homeless.
Within this one site, resident clients are supported with case managers and workshops for practical learning like workforce readiness and independent living skills. Although there are 85 onsite residents, the agency supports 40-45 other folks in shelter situations. The program is currently at capacity with its outreach program.
Front Steps is supported by community donations, including help from people who do volunteer calling and manage the program’s social media. The agency accepts donations of vegetables and flowers from community partners, and they often exchange clothes or other necessities, offering services to tent cities, as well.
A Serenity Garden
Having moved into this new complex more than a year ago, the Front Steps garden is now in its second year. Mr. Anderson, who’s often in the garden all day, says they are currently growing tomatoes — beefsteak, roma and cherry– cucumbers, eggplant, zucchini, peppers, cabbage, collard greens, and a lot of herbs, like oregano and mints. It’s an environment where Matthew Anderson feels people can find spiritual healing.
Some of the garden’s produce is donated to a local food bank, but much is divided up or prepared for the residents, or served at their large group events or meetings. In addition to providing much needed food, the Serenity Garden serves as a workforce development component. The organization hires its resident clients to maintain, water, harvest and oversee the garden. Their payment comes in the form of stipends like gift cards, bus tickets, food cards, grocery and laundry funds.
The garden received its plants from the City of Cleveland sprout program. The program’s case managers invite local community college students to come to the garden to teach people gardening basics as well as culinary skills. Last year 22 to 26 people engaged with the gardening program, and held a successful potluck featuring fresh vegetables from the garden.
This is one of those non-profit organizations that does so much good in the community, it’s immeasurable. Their goals are to
- Reduce homelessness
- Reduce recidivism rate in the legal system
- Reduce emergency room visits and hospitalizations
- Increase self-sufficiency and independence of those served
- Provide affordable housing to those in most need
If you are inspired to donate to this incredible organization, click here.
Every year, Gardening Know How awards $1,000 to 20 different, hand-picked garden projects across the United States and Canada. If your community or school garden has a growing, unmet need for more soil, seeds, fertilizers, building materials, or even just help getting the word out about your program, we’re ready and willing to help you meet those needs. As community gardens and school gardening programs spring up all over, we’re happy to do our part to help.