When Mark Curtis started sleeping on the streets he knew he had hit rock bottom but since then he has used the experience to open a community garden in Gosnells to help others.
The Salvation Army in partnership with Dale Alcock opened the community garden of hope last month at the Harry Hunter rehabilitation centre ahead of homeless persons week, which began this week.
Mr Curtis had the idea to build the garden about 18 months ago after overcoming a long battle with addiction.
“I was 14 when I started smoking marijuana and 16 when I started using heroin and speed,” he said.
“I was working on the mines about five years ago when I got injured and I got a $550,000 payout but I blew the lot.”
He said within two years he had been to jail as a result of his addiction and at one point he was homeless and sleeping in church grounds when the Salvation Army stepped in to help.
“These complete strangers helped me get into rehab, I prayed, I worked hard and slowly I started to come out of the darkness and I had hope for a better life,” he said.
“I wanted to provide opportunities for others to recover like I did and for me the garden was the most effective way to do that. It was a spiritual thing where I woke up one morning and God was telling me to come here and start a garden.
“I didn’t know anything about gardening and I think the only thing I’d ever grown was illegal so it was totally foreign to me.”
He was helped by a number of people along the way including an Italian backpacker who knew about permaculture and his horticulturalist neighbour.
The City of Gosnells also helped fund the project. Mr Curtis hoped the garden would connect Salvation Army clients, businesses, community groups and schools.
“This garden is about building relationships and community because a lot of the people who come through programs like this don’t have a lot of family contact,” he said.
“About 70 per cent of people who have an addiction have experienced some form of abuse because you don’t think when you’re a kid, ‘well I want to be a druggie when I grow up,’ it takes something happening along the way.
“This is a good opportunity to slow things down a bit and it can be a short term achievement for the guys who come through here.”
The garden would be open to the public on Tuesdays and Fridays.