Residents of the two, on-site apartment buildings which each house low-income folks who live with profound symptoms of mental illness
Kingstonians and community members who access services from Addictions & Mental Health Services KFLA (even if they don’t live on site)
Our neighbours! (which include members of the co-op next door and students from both Molly Brant Elementary & Kingston Secondary School).
Our Design Principles
There exists a powerful and unrealized potential for allegiance and mutual caretaking when marginalised communities come together. In this case, those communities are people whose disabilities have sidelined them to a life of poverty and stigmatisation, and nature, soft and powerful, yet stumbling under the assault of extractive capitalism.
Opportunities for relationship building between the natural world and folks whose profound disabilities relegate them to society’s margins are curtailed through social exclusion, inequitable infrastructure, disenfranchisement, and extractive capitalism. This space will be replete with opportunities for people-plant interactions in ways that stimulate and soothe all of the senses. It will offer opportunities for people to build the skills of patience, nurturing, and kindness with a view of being able to generalise these skills to their own self-care and compassion.
This space will be self-governing and free from ableist policing, stigmatisation, commodification, and paternalistic beneficence.
For these reasons, safety for participants is paramount and design choices were made to inform this principle.
The space is fully accessible and was built according to the principles of universal design. Social inclusion is an essential component of this space.
Client and resident choices were explicitly sought and integrated into every aspect of the space’s design. It is important the space reflects the preferences and interests of those who enjoy it.
About the Space
The space represents approximately ⅓ of an acre of formerly underutilized property owned by AMHS-KFLA. It shares a plot with two apartment buildings owned and operated by the agency which house folks with serious mental illness and who live on fixed incomes.
For several years, a small garden towards the rear of the property was lovingly stewarded by an AMHS employee with a green thumb and a kind heart. The rest of the property, however, was brimming with invasives like burdock, garlic mustard, invasive honeysuckle, buckthorn, and norway maple. In spite of this, there was little shade and during the hot summer months, the dusty lawn was perhaps unusable but definitely unused. Much of the property has simply been a place for debris to gather.
After its former steward stepped back from the space, the agency’s occupational therapists, with support from the Loving Spoonful, the Master Gardeners of Rideau Lakes & the Thousand Islands, and Little Forests Kingston, saw a much bigger opportunity. Whereas meaningful occupation could be found and fostered in many different avenues prior to the pandemic, facilitating these types of opportunities needed to take on a much different look once covid restrictions set it - and this set us to looking outdoors!
Why We Planted a Little Forest
Those humans most vulnerable to the looming effects of climate change are the ones who already have the least.
Nature, even in doses as small as just looking at a flower, is a transformative force for human wellness. Whereas humans’ impact on the natural world is manifest through degradation, extinction, and waste.
Increased urban tree canopy cover has profound benefits for human society: decreased crime rates, mitigates urban heat islands, improves air quality, reduces noise pollution, reduces anxiety and depression, increases heart rate variability, fosters opportunities for prosocial interactions and community building, improves self-reported wellness, reduces morbidity, on and on!
Taking care of marginalised and equity-seeking groups also actually looks like taking care of planet earth!
When we decolonize our landscape, we create opportunities for wellness for people who need them the most and who, by the cruel irony of capitalism, have the least access to them.
Our Stewardship Plan
We are inviting our residents and participants to generate this.
Attentive watering, care, and protection will be essential for the first few years of the little forest’s life.
This is a big idea and unprecedented for our line of work. We are looking at this as a ‘field of dreams’ type of undertaking: as we build it, folks will come.