After years of imprisonment or homelessness, men and women are finding their way to real freedom through a CHI initiative. It’s not a big program, but it carries great meaning.

Conventional wisdom teaches that to forge leaders you don’t tell people what to do; you give them the means, freedom, and an opportunity for them to address their issues their own way.

This has been happening at CHI with a group of homeless clients enrolled in our Transitional Permanent Housing (TPH) Program. These clients have found new meaning to their lives through the creation of a garden and an orchard.

“The idea started with our TPH group from Riverhead,” Case Manager Jessie Cruz explains. “This group is made up of 5 homeless women between the ages of 47-67.  They asked me if they could plant a garden and I received the approval from our Property Management department. Around the same time, the TPH group from Huntington Station was talking about growing vegetables, so I also told them they could start a garden if they wanted to. This Huntington group is made up of 9 homeless men between the ages of 33-65.”

However, Jessie realized that there were some limitations for these groups, so she decided to knock on some doors. “I sent a letter to The Home Depot asking if they could donate any supplies. I honestly didn’t think I was going to get anywhere, but the response was very positive. The Home Depot in Huntington donated everything my clients needed to start a garden. We got garden tools, soil, and seeds. They also want to set up workshops for the men and would also interview them for potential jobs and have the HR manager come to the house to discuss employment opportunities with them and work on their interviewing skills,” Jessie adds.

Now the gardens are blooming and they even have a name. The ladies from TPH Riverhead named their garden “Garden of Eve” and they are growing tulips, but also vegetables like cucumber, peppers, zucchini, squash, and tomatoes.

“It’s a great feeling to watch the garden grow; it’s inspiring. It represents our future-achieving individual growth and moving on”, said Penny and Betty, two of the clients at Riverhead.

The men called the Huntington garden Genesis because it means “new beginning”.  The garden is thriving and they not only develop valuable skills through this experience, but it also provides them some fresh vegetables and fruits that they need to keep up with the “clean diet” regimen they want to follow.

Jessie comments: “As their Case Manager, I feel so proud of them. Some of these clients are in recovery from substance abuse and others spent time being incarcerated, so this is something they can do without a correction officer looking over them or telling them what to do. This is freedom for them”.


CHI’s Transitional Permanent Housing (TPH) Program

Transitional Permanent Housing (TPH) Program is a program developed to assist single, homeless, men and women transition from an emergency shelter into a transitional housing situation, where they will eventually obtain permanent housing.

Clients placed in this program must have open and active Public Assistance cases and comply with all DSS rules and regulations; this includes attending all required appointments for DSS, DOL, etc. In the program the clients work with an assigned case manager to obtain goals consistent with a housing program.  Such goals may include (but are not limited to): Employment, Education, Physical Health, Mental Health, Daily Living Skills, and more.

Clients are mandated by program guidelines to meet with their case manager once a week.  Being placed in a transitional housing program enables the client to achieve other goals while still having the support of a case manager.

For more information contact: Community Housing Innovations, Inc. 914-683-1010 (Westchester), 631-475-6390 (Patchogue).

Photo credit: FidlerJan/Morgue File.