Iowa Homeless Shelter Greenhouse, Second Chance Through Gardening

homeless shelter greenhouse

Central Iowa’s Homeless Shelter Greenhouse

The idea of a homeless shelter greenhouse has been spreading recently and we are excited to be a part of this innovative movement. Central Iowa Shelter & Services Center (CISS) built a Growing Dome not only to feed the hungry, but also to teach those needing a second chance how to grow their own food! Such fantastic news! We are also excited that they are getting such great attention from the media for the wonderful work they are doing for those in need in their community. 

From AJ Olson, the Assistant Manager at the shelter: “We’re an opportunity center. We are more than just a homeless shelter. We’re a place – yes – that people can come eat and sleep, but we have a food pantry, a clothing closet, a classroom, we have classes that are offered here. We have apartments. So we really want this to be a place where people can come and receive assistance to move beyond where they’re at.”

To learn more about the Central Iowa Shelter & Services:

We’ve received a flood of encouragement and feedback from followers on Facebook. Read the Post by Growing Spaces Greenhouses.

We thought we’d also share an update on the greenhouse from their website below:

Since the installation of the 33′ Growing Dome Greenhouse for the Homeless Shelter, they built a growing program called Mulberry Farms & Food. Staff and clients aim to provide healthy and locally grown food options to use in the Mulberry Street Cafe, the kitchen program at CISS. First started in 2014 with the help of DuPont Pioneer, the farm was built in the CICentral Iowa Homeless Shelter GreenhouseSS backyard with a 33-foot Growing Dome and 10 raised growing beds. In the first full summer of the program, they grew around 100 pounds of produce, all of which were used to feed people out of the kitchen. After some trial and error, 40-plus koi fish were added into the tank in the dome as a part of an aquaponics system used to help speed up the growing process and regulate the temperature in the dome for year-round growing.

Mulberry Farms & Food Program

In the winter of 2018 CISS was given a set of greenhouses in Altoona the Master Gardeners of Iowa had one time called home. Mulberry Farms & Food staff are working to get the space cleaned up and ready to use for the upcoming growing season. With expanded space for growing and an ever-growing list of supporters, they are hoping to be able to produce enough food on a yearly basis to begin selling to local businesses and organizations to increase the amount of local food that gets consumed in Des Moines.

Koi fish in an above ground greenhouse pond

When most people think of homeless shelters, they probably don’t think about gardens and greenhouses. Though it might not seem like they go together, food is an essential part of the services we provide. At Central Iowa Shelter & Services we know that having access to fresh healthy food options isn’t something our clients are focused on, so we are making it our priority to benefit them.

Mulberry Farms & Food is special because all of the work done for the whole program is done by clients. These clients apply and interview like any other job, and if hired they spend their time working with our on-staff Master Gardener to help plan, care for, and manage all of the outdoor aspects of our facility. The trainees make just above minimum wage, but must be clients staying at the shelter. With some smart saving, the money they earn can add up quickly to help pay for things they need to get back out on their own like an apartment. Find out more about Mulberry Farms & Food here:

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author avatar
Kyle joined the Growing Spaces team in 2015, and enjoys being involved in all the exciting projects and developments happening around here!I graduated from Pagosa Springs High School in 2009 and moved to Gunnison, Colorado to pursue a degree in Environmental Studies. After graduating from Western State Colorado University, I moved back to my home town Pagosa Springs. Since moving back home in 2013, I have been working to develop a farm in Arboles. In my spare time, one may find me backpacking in the wilderness, cruising on a mountain bike, slacklining in the park, or skiing Wolf Creek. I also enjoy creating art when I am not outdoors. The mediums that I enjoy working with are yarn, canvas and paint, and clay. I have been experimenting with aquapoinics and am always excited to share knowledge on the subject with others. I joined the Growing Spaces team in 2015, and enjoy being involved in all the exciting projects and developments happening around here!