Former veteran Dennis Joynson, 56, began work on the project last year, sharing his gardening skills with our clients. We don’t have a garden ourselves, so have teamed up with nearby Kensington Field Community Centre to create a beautiful outdoor space to be enjoyed by the local community.
Dennis has himself experienced homelessness. Following his discharge from the Army on medical grounds in 1982 he returned to Liverpool and worked as a plasterer but family problems left him with nowhere to stay. Dennis spent 8 weeks sleeping rough until he visited the Whitechapel Centre who found a bed for him in a local hostel.
During his free time he took part in all the activities and courses he could. Dennis discovered a love for gardening and saw it as a way of supplementing the food he could afford on his benefits. Dennis went on to become a volunteer with The Whitechapel Centre and we supported him to rent his own flat. He took several training courses and is now qualified to teach gardening and is passing on his green fingered skills.
Dennis is working with the Whitechapel Centre to run a weekly gardening group for current service users. Dennis says, “It’s great that I can give something back to The Whitechapel Centre, as they helped me so much. I’m working with lads who may have spent the night sleeping rough and it helps that I know what that is like. I hope that when they hear my story it gives them some hope that they can change their situations too.”
Alsop High School student, Louise Hollins, 16, said: “I think he is amazing, from being homeless to building himself back up and helping others come through what he has experienced. He is inspirational to other homeless people and is teaching them life skills that will actually help them in the future.”
David Carter, Chief Executive of The Whitechapel Centre said “We’re extremely grateful to the young people taking part in the National Citizenship Service for supporting our charity. We work with people who are sleeping rough, living in hostels or struggling to manage their accommodation. We’ve seen a 32% rise in numbers of people using our services over the last 3 years and this support helps us to make a positive change to more lives. As well as helping people find a home, it’s important we help them find new skills and interests to prevent them becoming homeless again. Our clients really enjoy gardening at the Community Gardening Project at Kensington Fields as it’s a fantastic opportunity to de-stress and contribute to the local community”.
The garden has also recently received a visit from Cllr Nick Small, who thanked The Whitechapel Centre, Dennis Joynson & Work Solutions for providing the people power that has helped start and maintain the community gardening.
The garden will be a place where local people and community groups can join together to enjoy the green space, while enriching the environment. Local people and our service users can gain new skills and take home produce that they have grown.
The gardening group meets at 10am at The Whitechapel Centre every Thursday, all service users are welcome.
You can support the NCS group fundraising project here http://www.gofundme.com/d5xxmo
The Liverpool Echo article is here: http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-veteran-went-living-streets-7702066