Having spent an August morning wielding a hoe, pulling up carrots and picking tomatoes, Debra Holman takes a break and turns from agricultural to philosophical: “There is just something about getting your hands in the dirt,” says Debra, a former Marine, who was once homeless. “It’s therapeutic.”
For many in the Roots to Road program, working the urban farming site in Vancouver has changed their lives.
Roots to Road, run by the nonprofit Partners in Careers
and supported by Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center
with a $5,000 donation, provides both employment and hope for homeless veterans, particularly females with children. The program works this way: veterans receive pay for their work in the field; they learn skills that could help them find jobs; the program provides them therapy, connection with others and stability; and it puts them in touch with other services for veterans.
Finally, much of the food produced is donated to food banks, homeless shelters and other organizations in an effort to fight hunger. “It’s a win for everyone,” says Denise Bender, the program's manager, which donates some 3,000 to 5,000 pounds of food a season.
Working for community health
Legacy Salmon Creek supports several groups in our community working to improve health. Read more about our efforts in the community here. The Roots to Road program is a good example. By combating poverty and homeless, the program is making a difference in people’s lives.
Studies confirm that poverty and homelessness contribute to poor health. Through the support of Roots to Road, Legacy Salmon Creek is helping improve the community health. “The issue of homeless veterans is a real problem,” says Bender, herself a veteran. “We really appreciate Legacy’s support because these people need help, and we are having good results.”
‘A success story’
“If it hadn’t been for this program,” says Debra, 50. “I don’t know what I would be doing.” Debra held several jobs after she got out of the Marine Corps several years ago.
But when she got laid off from an automotive business, she struggled financially –– so much so that she found herself living in her car with her 12-year-old son in the Vancouver area.
Roots to Road gave her stability; she now has steady housing, a job and a degree from Clark College. She volunteers with Roots to Road to stay connected. “I feel like I am a success story,” she says.
‘Get closer to nature’
Her story is similar, in one way or another, to many of the others. Christianne Silva, a veteran who served in the Middle East, was homeless with her two children until she found the program. She now works the field for money, food and an experience for her boys, ages 3 and 10, who accompany her while she farms. “When you work out here in the land, you get closer to nature,” she says. “You get closer to God.”