We’re delighted to be supporting the Earth Trust to work with Oxfordshire employment charity Aspire, on a project to bring those at risk of homelessness and disadvantage closer to nature.

Recent data shows that if a person is unemployed, living in an area of high deprivation or has a low income, they are significantly less likely to regularly visit a natural green space close to where they live. (And this is assuming that such a local space exists.) Older people, people from minority ethnic groups and those with a long-term health condition are also less likely to routinely spend time in nature.

From February to April 2023, the Earth Trust and Aspire Oxfordshire are working together to create a test pilot activity which has the needs and interests of those who are facing homelessness and disadvantage at its heart. If the pilot is successful, the intention is to develop more joint projects and roll out these activities for a wider audience later in the year. Example activities that may be developed could include wellbeing walks, greenspace volunteering opportunities, skills development and mentoring activities.

The Earth Trust strongly believes that everyone should have opportunities to benefit from the power of natural green spaces, most especially those who are less likely to engage with the natural world due to forces beyond their control.

Ian Nutt, Director of Programmes and Partnerships at Earth Trust, had this to say about the project:
“We couldn’t be happier to be joining forces with one of Oxfordshire’s leading charities for people facing homelessness, poverty and disadvantage, to pilot a project that gives vulnerable members of our community a greater connection to their local landscape. Growing Places is a rare opportunity for us to live our values whilst joining forces with an organisation that is at the forefront of tackling deprivation. The key to success will be in making sure this initiative comes from the very people that are intended to benefit from it. I’m excited to see where the project takes our partnership as we learn together.”

Ross Munro, Social Prescribing Navigator at Aspire, said:
“I have seen first-hand the benefit of this type of project on lowering people’s anxiety, widening access to employment and volunteering opportunities, and empowering people to make positive change in their own lives – all from creating a welcoming green space.”

The Growing Places project is being seed funded through the Mend the Gap programme. This programme of projects aims to enhance areas of the North Wessex Downs and the Chilterns AONBs that have been negatively impacted by the electrification of the Great Western Railway.