On a sunny Tuesday in Milwaukee, Ellen and I chose to volunteer with 5 other women from the Rising Tide Society. Coordinated by United Way and Rising Tide member, Elizabeth Haase http://elizabethhaaseblog.com, it was the perfect way to meet some friendly faces and learn about the Guest House. The Guest House of Milwaukee is a shelter in Milwaukee that has been around for the last 35 years. They serve adult homeless men, helping them in their time of need, and providing them with resources to help overcome their homelessness. The facility houses up to 86 men, all of which have a case manager to help the guests come up with an individualized plan to overcome their homelessness. While residing at the Guest House, guests have access to an onsite clinic, showers, laundry room, industrial kitchen, classes, and community garden. The garden is where we did our volunteer work, helping to prep, weed, and plant a few of their 56 garden beds. The produce from the garden is used for residents’ meals as well as Frieden’s Community Ministries food pantry network. On this day we helped plant kale, but the garden has a wide variety of produce that grows ranging from plants like strawberries, chives, zucchini, cilantro, carrots, potatoes, eggplant, cantaloupe, and more. I was surprised to learn some of Milwaukee’s best restaurants like Sanford, Wolf Peach, and the Lowland Group regularly cater a few of the residents meals using produce grown from their onsite garden.
The Guest House’s Cream City Gardens first opened in 2011 with 45 raised garden beds. Their goal is to provide guests with job training related to the green industry and agriculture, as well as provide fresh produce in their volunteer meal program. While we were busy getting our hands dirty in the dirt, it was brought up how therapeutic gardening can be. All of us ranged from green thumb gardeners, to cactus-killing novices, yet we were all able to fully participate and enjoy our work gardening. A few of the men from the Guest House walked around the garden, asking if they too, could help out. Our garden coordinator mentioned the sense of healing the garden provides to some of the residents. One of the previous residents mentioned to her that while he was recovering from drug addiction, it was the garden that helped him avoid a relapse, spending his time pulling out weeds instead of going back. For her, if the garden only helped this one person avoid a relapse, it was worth it.
After we worked in the garden, our group was lead on a tour of the Guest House. They recently went under a huge renovation, turning their closet sized kitchen into an industrial sized one, adding more space for storage, dorm living, and facilities. They promote their guest’s dignity, and strive to provide them with the tools and resources they need to help themselves out of the situation they’ve found themselves in. Even though they have a lot of resources already, the Guest House continues to need more help. Between garden work, donations, sandwich making, food serving, and more there are plenty of opportunities to volunteer.
If you’re interested in finding out more about the Guest House or want to volunteer yourself check out their website here! http://www.guesthouseofmilwaukee.org/index.html
Michelle & Ellen