A View from a Distance

August 27, 2018

By: Kris White, Development Manager

Rachel, a woman who is experiencing homelessness spends a lot of time around City Hall. Seeing a beautiful garden in the middle of Center City Philadelphia can provide a needed distraction from the harsh realities of day to day living for someone like Rachel who has lost so much in her life.

Rachel learned about Farm for the City after receiving an email from PHS. She thought the concept was interesting when she read the email, but explains that it actually blew her mind when she saw the exhibit in person. She tells me, “I’m happy to see PHS employees at Farm for the City explaining the exhibit to visitors as they pass through. I like sitting across the street and looking at it from afar. It looks like a nice place to relax and have lunch with your friends.” One of the wonderful things about Rachel is that she sees aesthetic value in looking at the Farm for the City exhibit. When Rachel looks at the exhibit from afar, she is able to see something that is beautiful and growing in a world that is dark and dreary for her.

As we sit together, Rachel says, It’s important to get out and interact with other human beings. Most importantly, we have to take care of the earth. If we take care of our earth, the earth will take care of us.” Rachel’s been coming to BSM for over a year now and she stays pretty active around the City. As I sit down with her in our busy multi-purpose room on this hot August day, one of her friends comes over to chat with her about upcoming activities around Philadelphia. They discuss everything from jazz concerts to seminars that will be happening this summer. Rachel tells me, “I’m on a lot of email lists, everyone from PHS to cultural organizations around Philadelphia.” But her favorite activity is gardening. Rachel loves urban gardening and has taken PHS workshops on gardening in the past.

Rachel explains that she first came in to BSM with a friend one day because her kitchen in her home wasn’t fully functioning and she needed a meal. She explains, “It’s ironic because I actually wasn’t even homeless the first time I stepped foot in BSM, but unfortunately over the last year my situation has gotten worse and now that I’m here talking with you I am homeless.”

Before coming in to BSM, Rachel was a bus driver/classroom assistant for the School District of Philadelphia. However, she lost her job during the Great Recession and eventually lost her home that she owned. After she lost her home Rachel was living with a friend, but shortly after moving in together, her friend fell on hard times and ended up losing his home as well. Rachel doesn’t feel comfortable telling me where she currently lives, but she tells me that she is safe and that she comes to BSM to get a good meal, her mail and clothing for job interviews.

Rachel attended our last Farm for the City Dinner and she described the event as informative and good for community building. Currently Rachel has been picking out interview clothing from our clothing closet in the hopes of getting a new job. She tells me, “I’m getting my business suits together. After I get a job I want to get a house again where I can have my own yard and start gardening.”

Rachel hopes to sign up for a Farm for the City workshop this summer in her free time. In the meantime, she plans to enjoy the lovely view of the exhibit.