Digging in the Dirt 

Dignity Village Homeless Take Root As Farmers

Although it is uncertain where the homeless squatters from Dignity Village will plant themselves after being evicted at the end of this week, they've literally taken root elsewhere--as farmers.

Since Thanksgiving, 80 or so homeless men and women have peacefully pitched tents on public land underneath the Fremont Bridge. But, a month ago, City Hall handed them eviction papers; a decision which the squatters have been desperately appealing.

As City Hall has been trying to kick the homeless back onto the streets, an anonymous donor from Washington has stepped forward to donate a parcel of land for Dignity Village residents to use for growing produce.

The acre-and-a-half parcel of land is located just across the Columbia River. Twice a week, the homeless travel by bus across the I-5 bridge to till, sow, and plant. Although many of the Dignity Village residents have been unemployed for years--and though they count among their ranks ex-prostitutes and former drug addicts--they are tilling the soil with a business plan in hopes for economic growth. They are growing some produce for their own consumption; the rest is for retail.

"Just because you're homeless, it doesn't mean you're a danger to society. It doesn't mean you're an outcast," says Ibrahim Mubarak, one of Dignity Village's squatters. "It just means you don't have a house."

Always coy, The homeless have dubbed their farm "Digsville." Once the carrots, lettuce, and squash ripen, they plan to sell their produce at nearby farmers' markets. Moreover, ever optimistic, they hope to have a permanent home for their Dignity Village by next summer; part of the plans for that new site include vending booths to sell their vegetables.

The homeless villagers are keeping mum about the source of their Digsville land. Since setting up camp eight months ago, several philanthropists and more than 20 local churches have provided over $11,000 in donations; some of that money has gone to pay for gardening supplies. In fact, the homeless at Dignity Village have such a bounty, they were able to give excess blankets and clothing to local shelters during a recent donation drive.

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