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Organic Farm In Miami Helps Homeless By Letting Them Work To Feed The Wealthy

By Austin Amuzie - Monday, September 10, 2012

Miami is handling the struggles of its homeless community in a way that is incredibly innovative As part of an innovative effort to tackle Miami's problem with homelessness, Xavier Wright has traded the streets of downtown for a live-in community farm project in south Florida that grows produce for an upscale restaurant.

Verde Gardens, a $17.2 million, 145-unit complex built for Miami's formerly homeless, boasts a 22-acre (9-hectare) organic farm planted with a variety of fruits and vegetables from potatoes to bananas and pigeon peas. It provides housing where homeless tenants can live, provided they also work in its 22-acre garden in which organic vegetables and fruits are grown for high-end restaurants. "Apprenticeships" on the farm net the workers $10 an hour and the fruits of their labor are then sold to fancy restaurants for well-to-do customers to enjoy.

At Verde Gardens there's a playground for the children and a farmers' market where residents can sell produce and other cottage-industry products.

Miami sees itself as a model for reducing homelessness. City officials from Austin, Texas, visited last month to see what's been done to reduce the number from more than 8,000 living on the streets a decade ago to fewer than 1,000 today.

A model similar to Verde Gardens is also taking root in Chicago, where Growing Home Inc is looking to move people out of the cycle of homelessness by offering paid internships on one of three urban farms.

One of the keys to solving the problem was creating a tax to fund potential solutions, said Ron Book, head of the Homeless Trust and one of Florida's best-known lobbyists.

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