The Garden of Eden
Eden House is a permanent supportive housing residence in the Bronx that serves formerly homeless single adults.
“There used to be a fish pond here,” Judy Evans says, pointing to a large mulch island in the center of the courtyard at Eden House. The paint roller in her hand acts as an extension of her arm, directing attention toward the gardens that she and her fellow residents have revitalized thus far. “We want to have that again, with some fish and turtles!”
The courtyard is currently dotted with both real and fake flowers — the artificial blossoms a place holder for fresh flora to come. Surrounding what will be the fish pond are hand-painted rocks that enhance the green of the freshly mowed grass, the shady trees and the long benches and tables that double as a chess and checker boards. Upgrading their “Garden of Eden” is a big undertaking, but Judy and her fellow tenants take pride in their work, just like any homeowners would. The yard is a favorite space among residents, who like to read, soak up the sunshine, and barbecue.
Eden House is one of Volunteers of America-Greater New York’s single room occupancy residences in the Bronx. It provides permanent, supportive housing to formerly homeless single adults, some who live with behavioral health issues. The 180-unit residence offers safe and comfortable low-cost housing, along with comprehensive on-site services such as case management, drug and alcohol rehabilitation support, and job readiness programs.
“We have a women’s group and a men’s group, among others, but the tenants really crave engagement and activities,” says Lisa Harris, a Substance Abuse Counselor and the volunteer coordinator for Eden House. Lisa is an enthusiastic supporter of the garden project. She is incredibly encouraged by the involvement of the residents, and says that their drive and organizational skills will make it a success.
Judy along with fellow residents Frank Lemons and Monique Barksdale have garnered the support of at least eight other tenants, including Phyllis Mitchell and James Braxton, who heard about the project through their involvement in other residence groups. Ms. Judy and her garden crew are footing the bill for the project themselves, despite living on limited budgets, “I’ve had friends donate paint, but we’d still like to replace the wood of the benches, buy some soil and plant new flowers. It would be good to have some tools of our own for upkeep,” she says.
Frank Lemons is part of the crew helping to spruce up the yard. “I love to bring my little grill down here, and if other people pitch in, I’ll cook for everyone. I also do all of the grilling for holidays like Memorial Day,” he says. One of many amateur cooks at Eden House, he hopes to open his own restaurant someday, but in the meantime, he enjoys doing what he can where he is.