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Garden for homeless approved in Courtenay
The Dawn to Dawn: Action on Homelessness Society will build a community garden in Courtenay, but not just any community garden.
According to society director Tom Grant, the society will ask Courtenay's homeless and disadvantaged to contribute to garden by working in it.
"A lot of these people who are on the streets or living in poverty and that, you know, they've got nothing to fill their day with," said Grant, noting the success of the society's soccer and bowling programs.
"It really helps to connect with the community, and gives these people a real, I don't know, a sense of accomplishment, something that they haven't had in their life for a long time."
Also, food produced by the garden will go to the soup kitchen at St. George's United Church, and people who contribute to the garden will be able to take fresh produce too.
He applied for a $5,000 grant from the Home Depot Foundation, and $2,500 was approved. He said he believes this will be enough to build the garden, and added that he may approach his community contacts for funds as well.
Grant submitted a request through Courtenay Coun. Jon Ambler to use City-owned land on Harmston Avenue — which is slated for the new RCMP detachment — for one year.
Grant said the site's proximity to St. George's is the reason for the choice, because it's "convenient for the people that we're looking to attract."
The proposal was discussed at Monday's council meeting, and Ronna-Rae Leonnard had some concerns.
She brought up that the community garden once located at Anderton Avenue and First Street failed when there was no more supervisor.
"Community gardens require supervision to actually be successful," said Leonard.
She added that watering infrastructure needs to be looked at, and she suggested talking about more long-term options — like using the old garden at Anderton Avenue and First Street — with Grant, who was not present at the council meeting.
Ambler pointed out that Grant is a "community pillar" and he's given his personal assurance that he will oversee the garden. He also noted that it's only for one summer, the project needs to move ahead soon if it's to happen this year, and it's at no cost to the City.
"It's a very low-risk, and for us, no-cost experiment into whether this will work," said Ambler.
Coun. Doug Hillian said he was generally supportive of the idea, but had some questions regarding the project's feasibility. He, like Leonard, suggested speaking with Dawn to Dawn before approving the proposal.
Coun. Bill Anglin said he didn't understand what there was to discuss, and said the request was simple.
"They've already asked us where they want to put it. They don't want it at the bottom of First and Anderton. This is where they'd like to go," said Anglin. "It's an empty, vacant lot right now; we really not using it for anything, we're not going to use it for the next year. Give them the opportunity, and like I said (earlier), at the end of the day the worst thing is we have overgrown tomato plants."
The motion was passed.