Regent’s Park Campus Welcomes Homeless Adults for a Day of Ecotherapy

A successful gardening project was held at our Regent’s Park Campus in collaboration with The Connection at St Martin-in-the-Fields. Organised and hosted by one of our horticultural tutors, Jane Halsall.

Before joining us at the College, Jane spent many years working with homeless people at The Connection at St Martins, as a full-time project and youth worker. Jane left the charity to study horticulture at Capel Manor College for three years, once her studies were complete she returned to the charity as a part-time gardening co-ordinator.

The Connection at St Martin in the Fields, is a day and night centre providing a range of support services to people experiencing homelessness in Westminster, the densest area of rough sleeping in the country. Each year, The Connection engages thousands of people to address the causes of homelessness and promote a move towards life away from the streets.

Jane completed several gardening projects with homeless people during her time at The Connection and established relationships with multiple organisations to form collaborative projects. Unfortunately, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, her role was unable to expand and Jane needed to find full-time work.

Jane was fortunate to secure a teaching job at Capel Manor College but did not want to lose the connections and relationships she had built, as she wanted to continue her passion for ecotherapy. Ecotherapy is a formal type of therapeutic treatment which involves doing outdoor activities in nature.

Jane stayed in touch with past colleagues at The Connection and they vowed to collaborate on projects as a way to share their skills, expertise and resources; with the shared common aim of wanting to boost opportunities for positive working relationships, and to support students and vulnerable adults using ecotherapy.

Following on from this, Jane with the help of The Connection, arranged for a group of 11 homeless adults to visit our Regent’s Park Campus and take part in a variety of fun and interesting gardening activities. The visitors were joined by three members of staff from four organisations that support homeless people, (The Connection at St-Martin-in-the-Fields, St Martins Housing Trust, Waterloo Well Community Gardener and Evolve Housing).

The visitors had a fantastic time participating in various activities including seed sowing, stem cuttings and working on our allotment vegetable bed at Regent’s Park. They worked really hard and did a fantastic job of clearing much of the vegetable bed and composting all of the waste.

Visitors were able to take trays with seeds they had sown or pots with cuttings back to their hostels, and were supplied with a Capel Manor College bag and pen, trowel and a pair of gardening gloves as a thank you.

Homeless people are the most vulnerable people in our society. The challenges they face are unimaginable for most of us and having an opportunity to come and spend a day at somewhere like our college is a very big thing for them.

Jane hopes to expand opportunities like this one so that our students can also be involved, she explains:

“The importance of this kind of day cannot be underestimated. Working with vulnerable people who are some of societies most excluded, is always eye-opening and humbling. To be able to offer even a small moment of inclusivity to their lives is always an immensely rewarding experience.

“Doing this through horticulture adds an exceptional aspect because it is a transformative activity, that offers therapy through contact with nature, skill development and critically gives those in need a sense of purpose, usefulness and of being valued.

“I am very grateful to Lorna Sinnamon our brilliant Practical Instructor, whose hard work and support was much appreciated on the day. I hope very much that we can hold the event again next year and get more people involved.”

Find out more about the important work The Connection at St Martins does to support people who are rough sleeping to move away from, and stay off, the streets of London, and move towards a meaningful, fulfilling future.

Visitors from The Connection