When residents move into one of our supportive housing communities, they need access to more social services as they begin their new journey. These individuals have often experienced homelessness in the past, many of them are on fixed incomes, and they face a number of barriers that make it challenging to qualify for other housing options.
Helping them find affordable housing is the first step toward setting them up for long-term success, but we recognize that providing individualized supportive services is key to helping them enhance their quality of life.
We have partnered with Wake County Human Services to have onsite, dedicated social workers at both of our supportive housing communities, who provide assistance to residents however needed. Many of these residents don’t have connections to their families, and providing this support gives them a sounding board and advocate so they don’t have to face challenges alone.
Monica Cheek, the social worker at Lennox Chase, recognized that one barrier many of these residents face is health disparities such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity.
She explains, “A lot of the residents at Lennox Chase are on fixed incomes, and with rising grocery prices, and unreliable transportation, it’s often easier to buy foods that work against their health. When they do cook, they don’t always know how to scale recipes for single servings and they primarily rely on salt for seasoning and flavor.”
Over the past three years, Monica has been growing her own personal garden, teaching herself through trial and error about the benefits of planting and consuming home-grown food. That experience inspired her to introduce tips for a healthier lifestyle on a smaller scale to the residents at Lennox Chase with the introduction of a fresh herb tower.
This spring, Monica and the residents painted planters and started growing basil, rosemary, thyme, oregano, and lavender. “We started a small community herb garden and talked more about the benefits of different herbs and how they can add flavor to food, as an alternative to only using salt,” she says. “We also put up a chart detailing the different health benefits of different herbs in the community foyer and in our Lennox Chase newsletter so residents have a convenient reminder about how to incorporate these herbs into their meals.”
Residents at Lennox Chase can stop by the herb tower and pick what they need, and some residents even took small herb pots home with them for easier access while cooking. One resident, in particular, has volunteered to water and maintain the herbs so they continue to grow. Now that the herb garden is thriving, Monica plans to teach residents about new ways to use them in their own kitchens.
She explains, “I want to teach them how to make herb-infused oils and butters, pestos, and how to dry the herbs to use in the future. Showing them the value of healthy eating through a group project like this goes back to fostering a sense of community for these residents, as a reminder that they don’t have to go through life alone.”