Turning Houses in Homes: URI Master Gardeners Come to House of Hope
Recently, House of Hope has joined forces with URI’s Master Gardener program to provide a new service to its constituents: gardens.
It is rare, if not impossible, for widespread, societal issues to have real solutions. Racism, poverty, violence — the list of problems the country (and the world) faces tend to be things that are worked on and fought, but not really removed entirely. When it comes to homelessness in Rhode Island, however, an end might be in sight. Laura Jaworski is the executive director of House of Hope, a Warwick-based state-wide non-profit serving those experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity. She says that, with current numbers of homelessness, “We have an incredible opportunity in Rhode Island, as a state, to end homelessness.”
Since its founding in 1989, House of Hope has grown to provide aid throughout the state, installing beneficial and often unique programs all across Rhode Island. From “Shower to Empower,” a mobile shower truck, to permanent supportive housing to peer mentor job training, House of Hope is providing what Jaworski calls, “a continuum of services.”
Recently, House of Hope has joined forces with URI’s Master Gardener program to provide a new service to its constituents: gardens. “In an effort to build bridges between the community and the people in the property, it was decided we would revamp the garden and surrounding landscaping,” says URI Master Gardener and co-leader of the House of Hope gardening program, Stephanie Trabucco. Now, Trabucco and Kate Aubin, the other co-leader of the program, tend and teach at two House of Hope property gardens. Families and residents living at the properties get to pick what to grow, learn how to grow it and keep the produce for themselves. Jaworski says, “Some people have never had anything of their own to take care of and there’s a lot of beautiful opportunity and therapeutic growth that comes from caring for something other than yourself […] it really speaks to setting up your own roots.”
The gardening program is knitting together communities as well as creating homes. As Aubin notes, “Because we are so visible, and wear identifying name tags, community members feel comfortable approaching us to ask questions about gardening or House of Hope. In this way we are able to share information, dispel myths and break down barriers.” This work, to dispel myths and break down the barriers between those with housing and those without, is also a key component of House of Hope’s work. In fact, when asked what community members can do to help House of Hope’s mission, Jaworski’s first response is, “See homeless folks. A lot of what we hear from the people we serve is that they feel invisible. They’re ignored, they’re looked past, they’re looked over. […] We judge by what we see and we forget about all the other parts of somebody’s life and story and who they are as a human being. For us, it’s really important that people just see folks that are experiencing homelessness.”
House of Hope serves upwards of 1,200 people every year, not including the newly instated Shower to Empower program, which provided over 1,700 showers last year alone. “We’re an organization that is doing loud work really quietly,” says Jaworski. House of Hope isn’t the most well-known homeless support organization, but the work they are doing is paramount in Rhode Island. The one-on-one care they provide supports people struggling with homelessness on the path to housing, jobs and overall empowerment in a way that no one else really is.
If you want to get more involved, House of Hope is always looking for board members, toiletry drive contributions and monetary donations. In a world in which hope seems to have less of a role with each passing tragedy, Jaworski and the team at House of Hope are hanging on. Armed with shower trucks, affordable housing, job mentorship, and, of course, gardens, House of Hope might one day make a homelessness-less Rhode Island a reality.