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Connections grow in local community gardens

Carol (HPP Client) and Julie (CHRN HPP) with harvested tomatoes

Community gardens across Melbourne are helping people at risk of homelessness grow healthy food and social connections.

Bolton Clarke Homeless Persons Program (HPP) Community Health RN Julie Monteiro is co-located at Cornerstone in a partnership between Bolton Clarke Homeless Persons Program and Cornerstone CEO Naomi Paterson. 

The Cornerstone Garden is one of a number where the program works with clients across the city. Facilitated by the Dandenong Rotary Club, it provides meals, food parcels and various services for people experiencing  homelessness and hardship.

The shared space is accessed by Bolton Clarke Homeless Persons Program among other community organisations such as Orange Sky Laundry, One Voice Shower Van, Nourish Church, The Dandenong Baptist Church.

Julie says with many clients in insecure housing and without access to their own fresh produce, community gardens provided an excellent opportunity to plant vegetable seeds and seedlings, harvest fresh fruit and vegetables and interact with other people.

At Cornerstone produce is provided to the Cornerstone kitchen, where meals are made and served to the community throughout the week.

Julie says the garden helps people stay connected to the earth and to the food that they eat as well as providing a safe space for people to sit and talk.

“It is a positive space where conversations can be held over gardening, a place people can attend outside of where they are living, there is no cost, it is fun and good exercise and people can eat a healthy lunch afterwards,” she says.

“It can take time to get to know a new client, and this is a great space to do that. Sometimes it is hard to find a confidential space to visit and if people are moving addresses, this is a place we can meet to discuss their health.”

Carol, a Homeless Person Program client who has been involved in the Cornerstone Garden club since it began, says the garden is like a home.

“I believe it is a necessity - more places should have them,” she said.

“I come here and am amazed at what we get. When I come here, I wonder what is new, what has changed? It does wonders for my mental health; it is my escape from reality.

“I love the fact that Julie, the HPP nurse comes and helps. I wouldn’t have gone to the doctor if I hadn’t spoken with Julie. She helped me navigate the COVID-19 immunisations.

“I talk about things that matter and I talk about things that don’t. I know what I picked last Tuesday went into our Sunday night meal and there were 15-20 people there!

“I share what I do here with my children and my daughter is now doing an agriculture course, inspired by my time here in the garden over the years.”

Currently, the HPP operates in several community garden projects across Melbourne. The Bolton Clarke Homeless Persons Program has 61 community health nurses working with about 1500 clients across Melbourne every year to access health services and support.  

Home and Community Support

Support that feels right at home

Home and Community Support offers a range of flexible services covering home nursing, home assistance and other specialised care including dementia support.

Designed to keep you living independently and delivered with the expertise, kindness and respect you deserve, we’ll work with you to create a personalised care plan that suits your needs and interests.

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