Grassroots Healing Garden: The Serenity Garden at Transitional Housing, Inc.

Before construction, on left, and after on right

Thanks to Robert Rensel for providing the images and text for this blog entry. For more images, go to the THI website:

Transitional Housing, Inc. is a 62-unit facility in Cleveland, OH that provides temporary housing for women who have been homeless. Its mission is to provide a safe living environment while the women can work on and overcome the challenges that led to their homelessness.

The Men’s Garden Club of Greater Cleveland has about 70 members that share an interest in gardening. The Club provides scholarships to students entering a horticulture-related field and undertakes volunteer projects to beautify and improve our community.

The Serenity Garden

After observing that Transitional Housing’s units had no air conditioning and just asphalt for a back yard (see image below), the Men’s Garden Club proposed the installation of a therapeutic green space early in 2006. The boards of both organizations approved the project and funding was secured from the 1525 Foundation and Neighborhood Connections. Garden Club members worked with the women residents to develop a garden design that would meet their needs. The green industry was very receptive to lending a helping hand. Kurtz Brothers provided substantial in-kind support by removing a section of asphalt and providing soil, pavers and retaining wall blocks. Klyn and Willoway Nurseries provided preferential pricing on plant material and the Plastic Lumber Company discounted the benches made out of recycled material.

The design was finished in the spring of 2006. Plants were selected based on their soothing fragrances, appearances and textures. The sound of trickling water in the fountain adds to the serenity of the garden. The layout preserves a beautiful view of the city skyline. The hardscape was completed in the fall and the woody plants went in before year end. Perennials were planted in April and planter boxes and annuals are slated for June. A mural for the wall behind the fountain is being designed by the residents.

This is a terrific collaboration between a local garden club and a social service agency. Garden club members have an on-going commitment to work with the residents to maintain the garden. Women who are working to rebuild their lives now have a respite area in which they can find peace and healing. The quote going up on the dedication plaque says it all:

The kiss of the sun for pardon,
The song of the birds for mirth,
One is nearer God’s heart in a garden
Than anywhere else on earth.
~Dorothy Frances Gurney