Bachelor of Social Work student Britney Guerra, an intern at the Manatee County Public Safety Department, recently celebrated the launch of "The Everlasting Garden." The garden will provide clients of the Salvation Army of Manatee County and Homeless Outreach Team an opportunity to spend time outside of their dorms and off of the streets in between case management meetings, medical appointments, and job interviews. The project aims to contribute to mental health and community beautification efforts.
Guerra met with donors, local non-profits, small and large businesses, and county staff to collect necessary donations – bringing this project to Salvation Army clients and the community at no cost. In addition to the Salvation Army, other organizations including Lowes, Home Depot, the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Manatee County Extension, and the Manatee County Government helped bring this project to fruition.
As part of her internship, Guerra has been leading weekly independent planning and work groups with residents at the Salvation Army. Guerra ensured that clients were integrated into every decision and task associated with the garden.
At the ribbon cutting ceremony Friday afternoon, ten full garden beds filled with flowers, fruits, and vegetables were unveiled. Clients will not only have the opportunity to learn valuable skills from the UF/IFAS Extension but will also have space to meditate and relax. Next phases for the garden include developing a native landscape initiative with UF/IFAS around the property and turning the garden into a mental health space for clients and case managers to use freely.
"My strategic goal with this project and future phases is to change the current negative public narrative surrounding homeless individuals into one of opportunity and positivity," said Maria Santos, homeless policy coordinator, Public Safety Department, Manatee County Government.