Santropol's magical garden: A place of healing and hospitality
Jonathan Lebire
In two minutes, allow me to share one of the most moving stories of my 20-year career. At the Cité des Hospitalières garden, I witnessed the remarkable transformation of people experiencing homelessness, particularly those of Aboriginal descent often perceived as problems, even by themselves.
I saw these individuals resolve conflicts among themselves, rediscover the pleasure of gardening, and enjoy for the first time vegetables they had picked themselves. A touching scene of an old Inuit man smoking a joint and a sister sharing a moment of joy, illustrating a genuine connection. Women who never feel safe were finally able to blossom, taking part in exceptional photo shoots. The garden acted as a means of reconnecting them with their culture, not least through the teachings they came to share with Santropol.
The hundreds of photos I took tell unique stories, each worthy of at least ten minutes' narration.
At a time when the homelessness crisis was creating a mad dash, the Cité des Hospitalières garden, with the support of Santropol and the Sisters, has had a concrete impact on cohabitation in Milton-Parc and on the living conditions of our most vulnerable citizens. Together, here, we have the opportunity to develop a solution that everyone is desperately seeking.
This impact, though difficult to measure and prove with our means, transcends statistics. How can we prove what didn't happen at the corner of Milton and Parc because we were here? We were able to offer healing, healing and inspiration to the real experts in homelessness in Montreal, the people on the street.
Since then, this experience has mobilized these individuals to create magnificent projects, such as a Union de Solidarité de la Rue, a peer group doing paid harm reduction work in the evenings, the creation of a cooperative of aboriginal street artists, and many other initiatives. These tangible results underscore the transformative power of inclusion, healing and community, challenging the stigma of homelessness to forge a more inclusive and positive future.
In the magical garden of the Cité, we made a profound discovery of ourselves. It was here that we found our autonomy, awakening a potential that had long been buried under the weight of our extreme traumas, as Kim shared. We felt a burning desire to get involved with nature, to reconnect with our cultural roots and our healing spirituality. In this place, we learned that even with our lives tainted by these traumas, we can dream, be creative, and yearn for an alternative to the system that labels us as homeless, problematic, stigmatized and marginalized. This garden has become a haven where hope and healing are possible, a place where reconciliation, restorative justice, and healing become the keys to solving our growing social problems.
While the system persists in seeing us only as "the homeless," we discovered here that we are individuals whose potential has been robbed by a lack of healing and an unacceptable amount of trauma. Our quest for sustainable solutions has revealed an essential truth: the real solution lies in providing the resources we know we need, and that we ourselves are capable of designing and managing.
Comm-Un is firmly rooted in the fabric of the Cité des Hospitalières community, nourished by significant collaborations. In symbiosis with Santropol Roulant, our presence extends into the heart of the Cité, as a resident of Value Collective, by investing in Transition en Comm-Un and by creating a collaboration with La Remise. And, of course, we always say hello to Richard, the gardens' guardian angel.
This garden is more than a physical place, it's a symbol of transformation, empowerment and hope for an often forgotten community. With Santropol Roulant and Comm-Un, we are residents of this place of change, involved with the shed, and committed to Transition en Commun. Our thanks to Richard, the gardens' guardian angel.
Our message is clear: the precious bond established with the Hospitaller Sisters, this place offers unique spiritual healing to aboriginal participants, and it would be absurd not to include our present experience of such a source of healing. It's a place that embodies the principles of reconciliation, restorative justice and healing, a key to solving persistent social problems. This magical garden is much more than a physical space, it's a possibility for positive change, a healing oasis in the urban fabric of Montreal.
Now imagine a native winter garden, open to all and created by the people of the Milton-Parc street. Visualize an alley lined with Inuit ice sculptures, illuminated with sound and light. Envision the people who are currently suffering on the streets, finding refuge here, smiling as they do in the photos. Please consider offering them a place to grieve. In the last six months, we've lost more than ten members of our community, mostly to overdoses. Think now of a University of the Street, with programming dedicated to personal growth and healing, responding in a lasting way to the traumas of these wonderful individuals and offering them the protection that will awaken their ambitions.
Our message resonates deeply: we have discerned a precious bond to cultivate with the hospitable sisters. This space is proving to be a place of spiritual healing for the native members we have accompanied, transcending even our expectations. To exclude these individuals from such a place would be absurd and inconsistent; on the contrary, we must give them priority and responsibility.
This place offers a form of healing that we have not seen elsewhere in Montreal, a healing that goes beyond the physical, touching the spiritual and emotional. Comm-Un is committed to preserving and nurturing these meaningful connections, helping to create a truly inclusive and healing space for all.

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