Tagged: homeless shelter

Notes from the Urban Homestead – Day Five

Log of my chores & activities at the Urban Homestead for Friday, June 5

In the morning, I go with Nance to her gig at a 2000-bed homeless shelter that looks like a high-security high school.  The shelter, which shall remain nameless, is a bible-thumpin’ mission, no doubt about it, but they feed their residents 3 meals a day and give them clothes and healthcare.  The residents work on jobs in the mission, and I meet 4 of them that are in Nance’s vermiculture / greenhouse program.

So I spent my morning learning how to harvest worms – and worm poo – from these formerly homeless guys (and one woman), who are totally tough and charming and sweet and funny.  They have 30 worm bins (roughly 4’ x 2’ x 2’) that they tend regularly (the worms eat the scraps from the kitchen), a tropical plant greenhouse, a roof garden with tomatoes, squash and cukes, and another long skinny food garden that runs along the outside perimeter of the greenhouse.  The guys tell me a bit about how they like the program – it’s a yearlong commitment – and they are basically OK with it.  Some pastors are cool (one resident quotes pastor X, one of the good ones that has a sense of humor: “oatmeal is better than NO meal!”) and others are hypocrites.  Robert, a tall skinny young kid (23) says he likes working in the stockroom best, Joe prefers transportation duty.  But they all seem to get into the worms…these people have had rough lives – addiction, abuse, prison – and it must be at least sort of nice, even on a subconscious level, to be working with something that’s a living system and constantly nurturing that, making it grow and change, giving back.  At some point, Joe, a short, stocky middle aged recovering alcoholic who looks like he used to be in the military, talks about turning over a pile of dirt in Bin #1 to find a whole bunch of baby worms in it:  “I don’t know why, it just made me so happy.”

At the end of my morning at the mission, I clip a whole bag of basil tops to make pesto.  It was lovely riding the bus back with a whole bag of basil – the aroma permeated the whole bus (the other folks on the bus did not let on whether or not they liked that smell).  Back at the Homestead, I make up a pesto with walnuts, oil and cheese, let the dogs out for a pee and scramble to re-accessorize and brush the pesto out of my teeth in time for the mud stenciling meeting…more on that tomorrow.