Cecil Whig Editorial – Farm of Hope

Cecil Whig EDITORIAL: Farm of hope

Posted: Wednesday, April 10, 2013 4:00 am

Last month’s announcement that a Cecil County-based non-profit plans to close an Earleville farm that has housed homeless families for more than three decades came as a shock to many in our community.

Clairvaux Farm, a 20-acre community tucked away into the countryside off Veasey Cove Road, was home to several dozen people fighting to regain their place in society. Through the years, the farm’s success stories of individuals gaining employment and moving back into homes have been numerous and detailed in annual reports.

Meeting Ground, the farm’s owner, simply cannot afford to continue running the farm at an estimated cost of more than $650,000 a year when its occupants are far from support services. It hopes to move its focus closer to Elkton, where it already runs four programs fighting homelessness, and where the county and state offices are located along with public transportation.

For the Rev. Carl Mazza, retired founder of Meeting Ground and original purchaser of Clairvaux Farm, though, the announcement was shocking.

Homelessness is a problem that has plagued the county, both visibly and out of sight, for as long as the farm has operated. Citizens and business owners have often told officials that the presence of homeless individuals is an obstacle for growing businesses, especially in downtown centers.

So the question becomes, how to do we help to end homelessness?

The answer is neither simple nor conclusive, but we believe one would be hard-pressed to argue that the presence of programs like Clairvaux Farm don’t help to end some people’s homelessness.

While Meeting Ground today laments the distance from the farm to urban centers, Mazza told the Whig that was exactly why the farm was selected.

“The reason we opened Clairvaux Farm was for the families and children,” he said. “Our philosophy was that homeless people needed the same community and human interaction that we all do. We had been housing families at the Wayfarers’ House on Delaware Avenue in Elkton, but the farm allowed us to bring more people together and away from the stress of life.”

He added that the farm’s real focus was children, for whom homeless is particularly devastating in the developmental period of their lives. Without the proper community and support, homelessness can be especially damaging on a child’s self confidence.

“Homelessness can be very demoralizing for a child,” Mazza said. “They move from place to place, their parents are often focused on surviving and finding work, and school is difficult to concentrate on.”

The farm, however, allowed children to get away from society’s problems, enjoy communal meals and shelter and talk with each other about ways to cope with their homelessness, Mazza said.

“We want to continue to innovate ways to better serve our homeless children,” he added.

We agree and hope that Deep Roots, a mentoring group run by former Clairvaux Farm occupants, can step in to keep the farm in operation.

Homelessness is an awful scourge that can deflate and defeat individuals. We believe Cecil County will need every option available to continue fighting the problem amidst our still recovering economy.

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