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Historical Blog Archive

'We can't wait to show how much hope and possibility is contained in one tiny cabin.' - Northumberland Sleeping Cabins Collective

A tiny heated space -- bed, dresser, mini fridge, some shelves and a door that locks. A home. ​​ Imagine what it would mean to be invited in from cold, back alleyways, woods, abandoned sheds and cars -- to no longer be shunted between hiding spots by bylaw enforcement officers whose message is clear: there’s no place for you in our town. Countering that message is the Northumberland Sleeping Cabins Collective. Formed less than two months ago, the community-led group is racing against time to build a sleeping cabin community for 10 to 12 individuals who are unhoused, before the worst of winter sets in. Fifty people showed up at its first meeting last month to offer support. Hundreds are dropping by for a peek of a model bunkie, lent from Kingston’s sleeping cabin community, as it tours Cobourg and Port Hope. “People want a solution,” says organizer Jenni Frenke. “It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s an urgent response, and it’s better than a tent and better than a shelter. We just need to get it done.” ​

What will move the project from vision to reality?

Land is key. A private donation of a half-to-one-acre lot in Cobourg or Port Hope with an unused building for common washrooms and kitchen would be ideal, but the Collective says it can work with other scenarios. In Kitchener-Waterloo, A Better Tent City bypassed red tape when a private landowner stepped forward with land. Last year the City of Kingston surprised many by making two municipally owned sites available for Our Livable Solutions. Here, with newly elected mayors and councils in Cobourg and Port Hope, who knows what's possible!

Money, of course. With serviced land, the 8 X 10 ft. bunkies could cost up to $10,000 each to build, but every day brings new offers of labour and materials. Green Wood Coalition, as a registered charity, will partner with the Collective to make donating seamless. “If everybody pulls together we can make something that feels like a huge thing achievable,” says Jenni.

Last but not least, community. Northumberland Sleeping Cabins Collective began when a handful of people took action to do better by our unsheltered neighbours, and it's grown exponentially from there. Jenni says “spread the word, share our Facebook page, tap into every network, because you never know what skills, talents and resources lay hidden among us.”

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Carol Anne Judd, Cobourg Artist

Photographer donates works of art in support of Green Wood

​“Look up. Beauty is everywhere, but in our busy lives and our troubles, we often don’t see what’s right in front of us. It’s my job to expose that, capture and share it, so people can stop -- just for a minute -- and say, Wow, it’s there, I didn’t notice it before, but now I do.” -- Carol Anne Judd

Starting Monday, Sept. 12 and running until Thursday, Sept. 29, the photography of Carol Anne Judd will be offered for sale on Green Wood Coalition’s Instagram page. A new work of art will be posted daily, going to the first person who comments “SOLD.” Judd is an impressionist photographer whose ethereal, otherworldly images reflect her unique perspective as a person living with a disability, a quality she’s come to regard as her “superpower.” “I look at things from a child’s view. Although I’m 6 ft.1 in stature, from my chair I’m at the level of a child and, in so many ways, look at things as a child might. I see magic everywhere and want to invite others to see that too.” Donating her canvasses felt like a tangible way to help -- something Judd believes everyone who is part of a community wants to do but doesn’t always know how. In the face of the growing opioid epidemic she looked for a way to support the increased demands on Green Wood’s street-level outreach, and art provided the means. Each photograph will be priced at $100, and anyone who chooses to donate more will receive a charitable tax receipt for the additional amount. Half of the proceeds from sales of art will go to Green Wood’s creative programs and half to the Anishnaabe Kwewag Gamig Regional Women’s Shelter at Alderville First Nation. To view the art pieces, visit

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"A therapeutic garden is a plant-dominated environment purposefully designed to facilitate interaction with the healing elements of nature. Interactions can be passive or active depending on the garden design and users’ needs.” -Definition: American Horticultural Therapy Association SNOW BLANKETED the ground last March as Lori Groves picked up a sketch pad and measuring tape to begin planning Green Wood’s therapeutic garden. The drawing taking shape before her eyes was intricate and detailed. It called on the four “rooms” of emotional, physical, mental and spiritual healing at the basis of the RedPath Addiction Recovery Program Facilitator training she had just completed; its four directional pattern drew from the elemental wheel of air, fire, water and earth, and its circular shape evoked the Indigenous cycle of life -- birth, life, death and rebirth. All of these teachings, Lori recalls, “just came together.” By the time the earth thawed, Lori had shared and refined her plans. Green Wood’s first therapeutic community garden was ready to spring to life. At its core is inclusivity. The intentional design encourages the widest variety of people to feel welcome and use it -- pick and eat the produce, smell the flowers, co-exist with the plants, animals and insects and benefit from everything it has to offer -- not the least of which is its force as a place of serenity, beauty and healing. “The design -- the balance and harmony of it -- strengthens the connection between people and the space and the place,” she says. “We might not consciously recognize the connection, but everyone can come into this space and feel safety and belonging.”

“I like the energy here. No matter how I’m feeling when I arrive, I always feel better here in the garden.” -Visitor to the garden

A FEW WEEKS AGO a man rode his bike to the Community Hive to charge his phone and pick up supplies. After helping him, Lori showed him around the garden.

“At first, it was an exploration. We went to all the different garden boxes and looked at what was growing. He sampled what was ready for harvest and asked a lot of questions about the plants. In the herbal tea garden he’d take a leaf, crush it, rub it, smell it and guess what it was. He played the guitar, sang and helped me and a volunteer garden helper rake and trim. It was a really fun experience. He said it was the best day he’s had in a very long time.”

As he left, Lori showed him the bags for harvesting, invited him to help himself to produce and help out any time. He stayed six hours that day and has returned every day since.

THE GARDEN’S PRIMARY FOCUS is to promote social and community engagement. Food is secondary. But as summer peaks, the harvest’s appeal is undeniable. Plump shell peas, long, slender green and yellow beans, shiny cucumbers and clusters of purple and giant red tomatoes hang heavy on the vines. Everywhere signs encourage people to “Pick Me!” And like everything else about its design, the signage is intentional.

“Signage invites people to engage with the garden, to let them know, ‘I can pick this, it’s safe to pick this, I’m supposed to pick this!’ We want everyone to take and enjoy the vegetables and flowers. We want people to know it’s openly shared.”

WHO USES THE GARDEN? A better question would be who doesn’t. Dedicated helpers have taken on every conceivable task from transplanting seedlings from the greenhouse to building raised beds and watering. A youth art group transplanted basil seedlings and created garden markers. The drop-in art group uses the garden for inspiration and is creating a mural on the garden shed. Guided meditation sessions and the QnA (Queers n Allies Northumberland) youth group have made it their meeting place. Kids play in it, searching for insects and bunnies, others drop by to pick flowers, and photographers are drawn to it. One regular visitor lives in a room with little access to nature, so instead of watching TV, comes to relax or help.

“Whatever a person needs from the garden I think they can find it, whether that’s play, sitting to contemplate and reflect, growing something, harvesting something or doing a purposeful task. Healing is such an individualized process, and the garden supports all of those interactions.”

SOCIAL CONNECTION, HEALING, BELONGING, INCLUSIVITY, SAFETY, HOPE. Lori has used all of these to describe the garden’s underlying principles. Then we happen on one final word - nurturing.

“The act of nurturing is such an important part of therapeutic horticulture because it asks: What conditions does this plant need to thrive? Then we think, ‘What do I need to thrive, what kind of environment, what kind of basic needs, what do I need around me?’

“By planting a seed, caring for that seed and growing a plant we learn how to nurture and, in that, we build self confidence, a sense of ‘I can do this!’ Maybe from there we can start to nurture ourselves and nurture others.”

'Show compassion, recognize this was a person who deserved to live...' -Missy McLean

On Wednesday, August 31, memorial services and vigils will take place across the country in observance of International Overdose Awareness Day, remembering without stigma those who have died while acknowledging the grief of families and friends left behind. Tragically, the event takes place amidst ever-spiralling overdose deaths. Here in Northumberland County, commemorative activities will take place in front of Victoria Hall in Cobourg throughout the day. Missy McLean, a Green Wood Coalition board member, director of Moms Stop the Harm and activist who works for policy change to address this crisis, supports those who have lost loved ones and friends. First, she wants people to understand these “deaths by policy” could be prevented by a nationally regulated, safe drug supply. She urges people to write to their elected officials to demand they “respond to this national emergency.” Second, she hopes that through events like these, increased education will open hearts and minds. “Show compassion, recognize their humanity, recognize this was a person who deserved to live and that this death was preventable.” Daytime activities will include an art installation, sidewalk talks and free Naloxone training. A candlelight vigil will follow at 8:00 p.m. Northumberland Hills Hospital will host a display in its lobby throughout the month.

What can the community accomplish that institutions can't? Join us for reflections on the recent 'Shelter in Peace' homelessness initiative and small group conversations about community-led, collective action. All are welcome at no cost. Photo:

Wednesday, August 17, 7:00 PM Trinity United Church 284 Division St., Cobourg, ON

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