Sunday, November 15, 2015

Garden for Hope and New Beginnings

Since beginning this blog I've toured many gardens and they are all special for different reasons but usually it's the plants or design or both.  The garden I toured on Friday stands out for reasons having little to do with gardening.  I joined my friends from Gardening Volunteers of South Texas (GVST)  to tour Haven for Hope, a place that shelters and feeds homeless individuals and families while providing a place of "transition and transformation" for those who are ready to take that step.

First we'll tour the campus to gain a little perspective.  We began at the visitor's center with a short introduction and then entered the secure area.  I was pleasantly surprised by the well-kept landscaping throughout the facility.  This campus opened in 2010 and is 37 acres near downtown.

Agaves just inside the gates.

Roses, Plumbago, and Lantana brighten the library entrance.

We toured "The Courtyard" which is open to the street and provides a safe place for sleeping.  No photos allowed but you get the idea.  The courtyard is separate from the residential facility seen in the photos below.  Norene Casas, one of the volunteer coordinators, was our tour guide and provided details about life at the center.  Staff and counselors are visible throughout the campus should anyone need urgent assistance.  There is even a kennel for pets so someone in need does not have to leave their pet behind.

At the quadrangle looking across a lawn toward the library shows a pleasant design.  There is no irrigation here so using native and adapted varieties is key.  The architect on the project interviewed a range of interested parties throughout the city prior to planning the design and has recently held follow-up meetings with the staff to determine how the design is working and recommend changes.

A chapel to the left holds regular services from different denominations.

Labyrinth near the chapel provides space for reflection.

San Antonio Food Bank feeds residents three times a day in a cafeteria setting.  St. Vincent de Paul Society feeds courtyard residents.  Haven for Hope is owned and operated by Bexar County but there are many private organizations to help out.  Public-private partnerships are something we do very well in San Antonio.

Then it was on to tour the adjacent garden.  It's small but very well done with colorful flowers visible from the walkway to attract attention.

Our host for this part of the tour is Andrew Waring (on the right in red t-shirt).  Andrew began volunteering in the Food Bank kitchen and was recruited to start a garden.  Knowing little about gardening at the time, he signed up for master gardener training and joined GVST.

I'd say he's gotten quite good at it.  Andrew is retired from the Army and spends 3-4 days a week here.

Marigolds help keep out aphids.

Now that the garden is established, Andrew plans to teach residents, especially children, to garden.  The tubs against the fence behind on Andrew's right will be used to create small Square Foot Gardens that families can take with them.

When a patio umbrella at Andrew's house wore out he repurposed the frame as a support for beans.  It looks great so I'll keep a look out for discarded umbrellas now.

Beautiful green peppers.  Andrew follows the schedule established by the county extension service.

Jalapenos too.

Bright zinnias in the background with cabbage.

Herbs look yummy.  Sage just in time for Thanksgiving.

Home Depot, a charity partner at Haven for Hope, donates plants, soil, mulch, and tools.  Andrew will also take any plants or materials local gardeners might wish to donate.

I just loved this bright fence of pallet gardens with herbs.

Milkweed, both tropical and native, for butterflies.


After touring the veggie and herb garden, we follow a path lined with Malabar Spinach at the back of the garden.

Checking out tool storage.  Good use of pallets again.

Continuing the pallet re-purposing theme, compost bins.  Is this a color palette?

We arrived at the charming butterfly garden--literally built in the shape of a butterfly.

So pretty and cheery

On the way out we get another look at the campus.

Outside the gate I paused to take photos of this mural along the parking lot.  Butterflies as a symbol of transformation.

Haven for Hope began as a way to help homeless veterans and now serves the larger community.

A man stopped to tell me that he has often found inspiration in the mural and reminded me to read the words.

Haven for Hope is just north of downtown San Antonio.  Check the link for tour times and information.

The San Antonio Express-News recently featured Andrew and his garden here.  I am so impressed with the work Andrew is doing.  He can use more help in the garden so if you can lend a hand let me know and I'll put you in touch with Andrew.


  1. Thanks for sharing. It's a great example of a good group of people making a difference to help others. It also shows how gardening can be an important, integral part of the process.

    1. It's an important part of our community. The garden and landscaping throughout the facility makes a huge difference.

  2. What an impressive organization, and they are lucky to have Andrew. Our mayor has decided to make homelessness a top priority for his ministration to solve, I hope he's seeking out places like this to learn from.

    1. When I first met Andrew and learned about his garden at Haven for Hope I was impressed and now that I've visited, I'm amazed.

      Melody recently attended a conference in Portland and she noticed the difference right away.

  3. Inspirational on every level. Thanks for helping bring attention to this worthy effort. Andrew is to be commended, along with all the supporting individuals and organizations. Good reminder, this short distance from Veteran's Day, that our gratitude for those who served in the military simply can't be all we offer. Homelessness is a situation not a disease, and contributing factors must be addressed. While that happens, thoughtfully designed sheltering facilities such as this one are a wonderful step in a better direction.

    1. Gratitude, followed by a helping hand (as needed) is the best combination. You always have the best words at hand.

  4. Late to comment, but I wanted to thank you for this terrific post. Community effort in the best sense of the term -- and as Loree said, they are certainly lucky to have Andrew. (Also: so glad to read about the kennel.) Inspirational, indeed.

    1. The kennel was one idea that came out of the extensive research process. As a community it's important to provide the help that works. The families still maintain responsibility for their pets in the kennel so it's a brilliant solution.

  5. Andrew's lifetime of service, first in the army and now at Haven for Hope is a laudable example for us all. Haven for Hope is a great facility and the garden is bright and cheerful. Thanks for sharing this fabulous place!

  6. This is wonderful! Thank you for sharing it with me--certainly I will check in with them!

  7. Shirley, Your pictures are such nice clean body of work. Your blog really comes alive with your photography. Don


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