helps community pride grow
Downtown Eastside plot sprouts
spinach, radishes and strawberries
May 30, 2008
Hotel resident Robbie P. helps maintain the area around Hastings
scabbed walls and barbed wire an unexpected sight emerges on
East Hastings: a garden with curving pathways where plants sprout
from dark soil.
Pacific owns the land and the PHS Community Services Society,
formerly the Portland Hotel Society, acts as its custodian.
The society has developed the garden and dubbed it the Hastings
Clemend, who works at the Columbia Hotel, stopped at the open
gate Wednesday afternoon to marvel at the fledgling Eden.
gorgeous. It's perfect. It's great to see life here," he
said of the green patches he noticed only a few nights before.
man paused on the sidewalk, pointed and said: "There's
rhubarb over there!"
Panteluk, who lives in the PHS-run Washington Hotel, cleans
the sidewalk outside the garden, waters the hanging baskets
PHS installed along this stretch of Hastings and helps out however
that has a vision can come down and do it, no problem,"
he said. "A lot of people just look at it and say, 'Right
PHS Community Services Society brings work groups to the garden
one Saturday a month, which is about to increase to two. The
Vancouver chapter of the Christian network Servants to Asia's
Urban Poor tend to the garden on Mondays and a group from the
Salvation Army works on Wednesdays. Sometimes they bring children
you don't usually see down here is children," said Bryan
Alleyne, who has lived within four blocks of the site for 16
years and works for the PHS at Insite, the supervised injection
site. "It's so nice to see kids on Hastings next to an
injection site doing gardening, not being harmed. People on
the street really respect them. They don't do all the things
that they usually do, they don't do it in front of children.
That's the number one rule. So it's really, really nice to see."
Alleyne's wandered by, those tending the garden have invited
the former drug addict who speaks with a raspy voice to have
a seat and enjoy the sun.
radishes, kale, leeks, carrots, beans, lettuces, potatoes, strawberries,
raspberries and fruit trees comprise the lot's first crop. Shandelle
Billows, a project manager with PHS, says the bounty will be
distributed as part of its Downtown Eastside Lunch Program.
of Onsite, the detox centre above Insite that PHS runs, have
worked in the garden Saturdays and Billows said PHS plans to
get them working there on a weekly basis.
just say how good it feels to work their body that way,"
site previously served as a campsite and garbage dump, and Concord
Pacific asked PHS to take care of it.
PHS colleague Peter LaGrand was inspired to create a community
garden like the one developed by the Christian non-profit Jacob's
Well at East Pender and Jackson.
of folks never leave the neighbourhood to go towards any park
or greenspace and so why don't we bring that to them,"
Billows said of LaGrand's idea.
Wednesday, one passerby who was disgruntled about losing his
job at a PHS hotel complained about the garden being behind
Vancouver Community Agriculture Network, a project of the Environmental
Youth Alliance, quickly came on as a sponsor to the garden,
providing soil, seeds, wheelbarrows and know-how.
doesn't know how long they'll be able to keep the garden growing.
There's no formal agreement with Concord Pacific.
there was a developer that wanted to put housing in here, that
would be phenomenal," she said. "I just think, also,
greenspace is so important to people's mental health to their
personal well-being. Living in this neighbourhood, there isn't
a lot of greenspace. It's a hard place to be."
added PHS has formed a Hastings Folk Garden Society, under which
it hopes to broaden its beautification and street cleaning work,
if it can get funding.