Supported housing clients get green fingered

This month, service users at our supported housing have been getting involved in a garden project at Green Park, organised by Bristol and Bath Parks Foundation. The project takes a ‘no dig approach’ to planting and tackling weeds and seeks to increase biodiversity in Green Park and the city.

Jess Brown, our Supported Housing Worker who supported our service users at the project said: “I was delighted to be contacted regarding the opportunity for our services users to get involved in a local project helping to spruce up Green Park in Bath. This involved planting, seeding, and restoring park benches and encouraging mental well-being through the outdoors.

A year into Covid regulations has meant nearly all face-to-face services and support groups ceased for our service users and the front-line workers in Julian House have been the backbone of orchestrating the ongoing support. For our service users this has been some of the most challenging months they have had to face, the streets emptied, and isolation became an unwanted friend. We have gone above and beyond to be innovative about how we have supported our clients as for many we were the only faces they saw day to day.

The uptake of the volunteering project at Green Park was small and slow and when I delved into why this might be I was interested to hear the responses. For some the thought of heading out into an open space, visible to the public was too daunting for them to consider. Others signed up, knew they would enjoy it whilst there but when the morning came couldn’t battle the anxiety of meeting new people and pushing out of their comfort zone. I’m confident a year ago we would have trapsed down in numbers with our spades to have a go, but it was really evident lockdown has knocked the confidence of many.

Despite this, the first session with the Bristol and Bath Parks team was extremely enjoyable and relaxed. We were made to feel at ease and could do as much or little as they felt up too. They learnt about taking a no dig approach to diversify the wildflowers in green park. This was achieved by firstly laying cardboard to dampen the weeds and spreading mulch we recycled from another clean-up site in Bath. This time was used to ask questions, learn new skills and a sense of purpose was radiating from the service users by the end of the session.

Volunteer opportunities like this are so important to help us aid a new transition back into a busier way of life. The aim of our supported housing service is to encourage independence so eventually they can sustain their own tenancy long term, all skills and opportunities are vital at this stage!”