With this update from our founder, we send you Christmas greetings that we, the happy few followers and backers of this campaign, be emboldened in heart, mind, and spirit to enter into the new year with renewal and strength for the homeless of Denver and beyond, that Winter 2017-2018 not be like 2016-2017. Stay warm. Stay safe. God bless.
A great question deserves a video response, but the bottom line for those who don't want to watch it is this: Half goes to just buying the real estate and the other half into putting it together in a way that will work for what we are trying to do, the salary for the agricultural manager, and the transportation costs for the families in rehab. But here are Monte's words on it.
Monte: Much is being said these last few years about how much the economy has "improved" and how much "lower" the homeless rate is, but is it really? I've been watching as food banks and shelters have slowly started closing one at a time, and not because things are getting better. But don't take my word for it.
Just as the Unemployment statistic is based on the number of people taking unemployment and therefore being seen, so too the homeless census is based on those who volunteer the information that they are homeless. Thus when the 2014 article regarding homeless children in Denver Public Schools came out after the homeless census showing a huge discrepancy between the census' estimates of the number of homeless families and the number of children, people began questioning the legitimacy of the census.
Even if we were to take the census as being an estimate, since 2009, just in Denver Metro alone, the number of individual homeless, those on the streets alone, has dropped while the number of homeless families, single parents and couples, has increased.
More to the point, what is being done about it?
Speaking as someone who has kept a close eye on it until a couple of years ago, shelters slowly opened up to the more expensive idea of sheltering families, something that came with increased liability and, all too often, child welfare issues that resulted in shelters either backing off or closing. Transition housing programs started running faster than there were homes or Federal funding to keep up with to the point that most are in lottery fashion now and only as homes become available.
In other words things have gotten progressively worse.
On top of that, a bit of research a couple of classmates and I conducted amidst the homeless population also brought up another concern, generational or cyclical homelessness. All too many of these families are getting so caught up in the lifestyle that goes along with homelessness that their children only continue the cycle, and now we have third and fourth generation homeless on the streets of Denver.
From the beginning, the idea has been for Dirt 'N' Nails to turn the tide: Providing counseling and Christian care to deal with the trauma of both becoming homeless and homelessness. Providing education and educational assistance for both children and adults, including in life skills, home economics, and, in the case of the farm itself, on-the-job training. And, most importantly, providing hope.
Dirt 'N' Nails is all about sowing seeds of hope for the hungry and the homeless.
Monte: That's a great question. Back in 2009, I was starting out my second Spring with a local community garden effort, tilling the soil and pulling the weeds, when it occurred to me that the original concept was getting lost. All of the volunteers, like myself, were there to fill the food banks, but the original concept was to bring in people from Social Services and WIC and the like to grow their own food. And every time someone did, they did not stay long enough to harvest. While some might have immediately jumped to the conclusion that they were all just "lazy," I didn't. It was a good, long drive for a lot of them. So I asked myself what it would take to teach people to grow their own food, even in an apartment, as I had done so many times.
Then I was struck with a vision. I looked down from inside a greenhouse to see people loading a truck with pots, soil, and starting vegetable plants to be delivered to food banks to teach others to grow their own food indoors or out. Outside the greenhouse, more people were tending to acres of vegetables. There was also considerable housing and children. That's when I realized that the people there were families who had been homeless and were learning trades and skills to help them be more self-sufficient.
Since then, I have been led, mostly through stumbling onto things, to get a Masters degree in Counseling for this endeavor, to help other shelters start up their own gardens like the one pictured above, and eventually to work on another Masters degree in Divinity. I have had help from a local King Soopers store with donations to keep vegetable seeds going to people who need them, have helped a preschool with an annual pumpkin patch, and have donated a lot of food out of my own garden. But still no farm.
With so many food banks and shelters having closed since 2009 and the number of homeless families continuing to rise, I am determined to get a farm going within the year. Will you help us in this cause? Share frequently. Donate prayerfully in time, money, or simply prayers.