Tuesday, November 17, 2009 - 11:07

HCA, Eden Project, Homeless Link and CLG embark on ambitious project to deliver real change for homeless people

Excitement is already mounting for the 2010 RHS Chelsea Flower Show, as plans for the largest show garden ever start to take shape.

The garden, entitled Places of Change, is being developed by homeless people right across the country, and has already drawn interest from around 40 homeless agencies keen to contribute towards its creation.

The Places of Change Garden is an ambitious collaboration between national housing and regeneration delivery agency, the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), the Eden Project, national membership charity for frontline homelessness agencies Homeless Link, and Communities and Local Government (CLG).

This partnership builds on the success of the silver medal award-winning Key Garden at Chelsea in 2009 which saw collaboration from 20 homeless agencies and 200 homeless service users involved at all stages of the Garden’s development. Participants involved consistently reported a huge confidence boost, new skills, and renewed hope for their future.

The 2010 Garden is being funded by CLG and the HCA’s Places of Change programme – a £80m capital funding programme that aims to bring about a step change in the way homeless services are perceived and challenge stereotypes around homelessness. Designed by Eden Project’s award-winning garden designer, Paul Stone, the Garden is 2.5 times the size of the Key Garden.

In developing a Show Garden of this size and scale, roles for approximately 300 services users have already been identified, with many more to follow. They will offer planting, gardening, design, construction, and carpentry during the site development, and on-site hospitality and multi-media facilities during the week of the Show. In doing so, they will develop new skills that will enable them to move onto further training and qualifications, and turn their lives around long-term.

HCA Chairman Robert Napier said: “On behalf of all the partners in the project, we are delighted to be involved with creating such a major Show Garden at Chelsea. Rather than a simple repeat of the Key Garden, we believe a project of this scale will have far greater impact in challenging the stereotypes around homelessness. Skills and knowledge will be transferred, qualifications won, and there will be many opportunities for training, positive activity and employment growing out of the project, which will make a difference to the lives of far more people.

“People who find themselves homeless have hidden talents and should not be written off. We want to show that disadvantaged people can contribute to their communities if they are given the right opportunity to find their own place of change.”

Christopher Hendrickx, a resident at The Limes supported housing run by Chapter 1 in Manchester, and a participant in the Key Garden, said, “Getting involved with the Chelsea Garden gave me much more than just an interest in horticulture. It made me more confident and helped me improve my people skills. It made us all realise that we can make a difference through gardening. We’re now working on the garden at an old people’s centre in Manchester. We’ve already cleared the ground and are going to plant vegetables and flowers. I’m feeling much more enthusiastic about the future and am hoping to start an apprenticeship and move into accommodation of my own soon”.

The Places of Change Garden will offer more opportunities for the visitor to explore and discover the stories and individual “places of change” of the people taking part. It will feature a number of designated zones such as crops and food; florestry and leisure; medicine and health; industry and manufacture; and conservation and the environment; all of which act as a metaphor for new skills and the journey embarked on by the individual to get there. The overall impression will be one of craft and enterprise and the importance of teamwork.

Adjacent to the garden there will be trade stands showcasing some of the excellent work undertaken by homeless individuals and teams, which will serve to reinforce the information about the Places of Change programme, as well as that of the participating agencies.

Agencies interested in taking part should contact Homeless Link.