The tulips along Michigan Avenue are one of the most “Instagramed” shots in all of Chicago. But the backstory behind those flowers may be even better than the tulips themselves.
The landscapers responsible for the gorgeous flower beds is the work of people who are overcoming major challenges. Some were incarcerated, others are overcoming drug abuse or homeless. All of them are now working as certified landscapers through A Safe Haven, an organization dedicated to finding housing and long term employment for those struggling to make ends meet.
"It's one of the best kept secrets in Chicago that one of the most admired tourist attractions happens to be the work of the most amazing people working to get their life back on track,” says A Safe Haven Founder Nelli Vazquez Rowland.
Eight years ago, Jeanette Harvard was homeless. Now she is responsible for keeping the same Michigan Ave where she used pan handle stocked full of seasonal flowers.
"I love this job,” says Harvard. "It changed my life and turned my whole world around."
Every year, over 100 Safe Haven clients are hired as part of their landscaping crews. Over the course of two years, they learn the trade, earn their landscaping certification and gain valuable on the job training. Their flower beds and rooftop gardens earn national recognition along with big awes from those passing by.
"Every time someone yells out to them...gives them a thumbs up, for the work they do, it puts a big smile on their face. Their work is the most admired in the city of Chicago,” says Vazquez Rowland.
For more information on the wide array of programs and assistance A Safe Haven offers, check out www.ASafeHaven.org. If you'd like to support them, they have a 5K Run to End Homelessness on July 14th along Montrose Harbor www.RunToEndHomelessness.org