Bringing greenspace to our shelter

“Green space is good for mental health,” so reads a recent study published by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (better known as NASA). Among the many benefits of green space listed in this report includes increased opportunities for socialization and exercise, reduced air pollution and protection against depression and “stress-related issues.”

When we sought to transform the barren space on the roof of our Frederick Street shelter, we didn’t quite know any of this. We were hoping to rejuvenate our rooftop after many years in our downtown Kitchener location. As we would come to learn, the benefits to our clients and staff have been plenty and more than worth the investment.

In this interview, our shelter’s Manager of Operations, Tina Danese, discusses what our new garden has meant to our community here at the YW Kitchener-Waterloo.

Why was the garden created? 

Our shelter’s rooftop was initially a regular flat roof until 2003 before we raised money for the Green Roof project. Green Propeller Design did the initial installation. The architect was Marina Huissoon. The Green Roof was created because at the time, women in our shelter had no real place to go for privacy, and we wanted to provide a second method of egress for clients on the third floor. There was no courtyard for them at the time.

What have clients said about the garden, and what does it mean to them? 

Some clients like to have a space to smoke, and sometimes just a quiet area like the garden space. Clients who have participated in building the project like the ability to give back and like the social aspect of coming together to work on something that will grow back year after year. For one recent client who participated, this motivated them to explore working in landscaping. It made them feel good about themselves.

Why was it important to create the Green Roof project? 

The shelter is a bare-bones and there are not many places in the building that I would say are pretty. The garden is a place of solitude, calm, and peace with the ability for clients to smoke without leaving the building- so a safe place too. There’s still work to be done. The Green Roof doesn’t have a lot of shade and there is a small dilapidated pergola (we should tear down and put something in its place when there is more money or willing contractor to take that on).

What’s growing in the Green Roof’s garden currently? 

Currently, in the garden, there are three different types of roses, sedums, irises, lily of the valley, daylilies, hostas, bleeding hearts, lilac bushes, tulips, and we transplanted some poppies- hopefully they take.

This interview was edited and condensed for clarity. 

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