Debbie and her puppy, Kismet at the Kelowna Rail Trail homeless encampment (Jacqueline Gelineau/Capital News)

Debbie and her puppy, Kismet at the Kelowna Rail Trail homeless encampment (Jacqueline Gelineau/Capital News)

Beautifying tent city: Resident providing fresh food through community garden

The garden’s harvest includes zucchini, kale, tomatoes, strawberries and cauliflower

Beauty and bountiful nutrition is blooming around Kelowna’s ‘tent city’.

Debbie, a resident of the popular encampment along the rail-trail, is the brains behind the blossoming community garden. She broke ground after being gifted a couple of seedlings. Since then, the garden has grown plentifully.

Garth, her partner, is the “muscle” behind the project and Kismet, her puppy, provides snuggles.

Garth, the ‘muscle’ of the community garden (Jacqueline Gelineau/Capital News)

Garth, the ‘muscle’ of the community garden (Jacqueline Gelineau/Capital News)

“When I first mentioned it to bylaw, they kind of rolled their eyes at me,” said Debbie. “Now that they’ve seen it, they’re more on board.”

Debbie hopes that by “beautifying” the encampment, people will start to see the humanity of those experiencing homelessness.

“They don’t see us as people,” said Debbie.

She said that her community can hear the degrading remarks pedestrians make as they pass by, and it hurts their feelings.

“Maybe if we make it prettier along here, it would give people something to be proud of… and people would see us as human.”

Debbie and her puppy, Kismet at the Kelowna Rail Trail homeless encampment (Jacqueline Gelineau/Capital News)

Debbie and her puppy, Kismet at the Kelowna Rail Trail homeless encampment (Jacqueline Gelineau/Capital News)

She said that there has been great community involvement in the project and that residents have been enjoying the flowers and produce from the garden.

During the interview at ‘tent city’ residents of the encampment came up to Debbie, asking for direction on harvesting vegetables and to ask permission to add some plants of their own.

She said that having a productive project to work on, like a garden, gives people a purpose, which is beneficial for mental health.

“When you don’t have things to do, it can become destructive.”

Debbie hopes to grow even more produce next year. This year, the garden boasts a harvest of zucchini, kale, tomatoes, strawberries and cauliflower, to name a few.

She wants to give the residents increased access to fresh and healthy foods, like vegetables, since the donated food that residents of the encampment rely on is typically processed and non-perishable.

Debbie is also growing an assortment of flowers, planted around the vegetables. Garth is typically in charge of watering the plants, an arduous task in the hot summers with only a single water fountain to use.

(Jacqueline Gelineau/Capital News)

(Jacqueline Gelineau/Capital News)

Next spring, she would like to hold a plant swap where locals could exchange cuttings of prolific plants to expand their garden variety.

After being gifted an armful of fresh-picked produce, Capital News reports that the zucchinis and tomatoes are delicious.


@Rangers_mom
Jacqueline.Gelineau@kelownacapnews.com

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