SEEDS is a collaboration between Downtown Cleveland Alliance (DCA) and Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry (LMM) with a goal of providing opportunities for residents of Men’s Shelter at 2100 Lakeside to obtain employment and housing. The landscaping program started in 2011 as a part-time seasonal employment option for men in the Shelter. Since then, SEEDS has expanded from seasonal work to a year-round program and has proven to be a pipeline to housing and employment. Through developing relationships with employers (often times leading to full-time jobs with benefits as DCA employees), the program helps to break the stereotype of what most people imagine when they think of “the homeless”.

SEEDS has proven to be a successful employment resource for individuals experiencing homelessness. In 2020, four men from the Shelter that participated in the SEEDS program were hired on full-time by DCA as Clean & Safe Ambassadors. LMM has hired numerous SEEDS employees (five in 2019 alone) to work at the Men’s Shelter. Due to an increase in requests for number of positions in SEEDS, LMM has expanded the program to work with various other agencies in Cuyahoga County’s Continuum of Care, including the Norma Herr Women’s Center. As a result, three women from these programs have earned employment at the Shelter as monitors. Through SEEDS, approximately 80% of the participants have achieved full-time employment and 90% have been housed.

The program offers a great opportunity for individuals staying in the shelter to get out in the community and be of service to Downtown Cleveland. Individuals in the program see beautifying the city as an everyday job and take a lot of pride in their work. SEEDS provides a source of self-esteem and pride for the men and women participating in this program. SEEDS workers have participated in highlights for the city including: the Cleveland Cavaliers championship celebration in 2016 (with lots of cleanup afterwards!), the Republican National Convention in 2016, the Cleveland Indians playoffs, and currently, this year’s NFL draft hosted in Cleveland. Their visibility and hard work have even led to various downtown businesses including Heinen’s, restaurants, parks, and parking lots to request their services.

In 2021, SEEDS has expanded to a year-round program with a 50% increase in participants. What started out as an experiment ten years ago has now exceeded expectations and transformed into full-time program for LMM, DCA, and the community to be proud of.