As the sun shines, in a little corner in downtown Las Vegas…

plants are being grown in Caridad Gardens to feed people. Developed by Merideth Spriggs, Caridad, which means charity in Spanish and Portuguese, has transformed over the years but always serves the community.

Caridad Gardens, the latest Caridad project, is a job program using garden therapy to reintegrate formerly homeless Veterans back into the workforce. Partners such as Bicycle Transit Systems (its bikes are used to deliver fresh produce to vendors) help Caridad Gardens grow the workforce and generate new business downtown. Its first produce, radishes grown organically at Caridad Gardens, has been harvested.

Another project is dT-alley, a t-shaped alleyway located between Fremont and 6th streets and Carson and Las Vegas boulevards. Alleyways, lined with garbage cans, dirt, and debris, separate the buildings in downtown Las Vegas. The nonprofit dT-alley Community Coalition, in partnership with the city of Las Vegas, revitalized dT-alley as an interactive community center. Caridad Gardens hired Jacob as a dT-alley porter and recently hired Caridad Gardner Dale as the second porter to work on keeping the dT-alley clean and beautiful. Dale is a former Marine and currently housed with Caridad partners U.S.VETS-Las Vegas.

Merideth also continues to pass out COVID19 Care Kits partnering with Food Not Bombs Las Vegas. Every kit contains a hand sanitizer, a pair of socks, snacks, and an informational pamphlet on COVID-19.

“I have also been working with Clark County Social Service with their emergency program for high-risk individuals who are eligible for hotel rooms,” she says. “I have been going out with them to locate individuals to help them.”

The Southern Nevada Health District has also sent representatives into the un-housed and at-risk population conducting tests for hepatitis and HIV and handing out information about COVID-19 and available housing.

Once homeless herself, Merideth created Caridad to tell stories of the homeless in San Diego to create advocacy and awareness. Spriggs made a move to Las Vegas in 2013 to work for The Downtown Project, providing services. A year later, she started Caridad in Las Vegas (closing the San Diego office), partnering with The Downtown Project. It began with a sock and underwear drive to distribute as well as offering educational panels.

Then the city of Las Vegas awarded Merideth a contract to create and use a customer service-based approach to help the homeless. She was also contracted with the Fremont Street Experience for additional outreach services as well as the lead on the Southern Nevada to End Veterans Homelessness. Her role in the community from 2014 to 2018 was as regional outreach coordinator, which included reporting outcomes to the local jurisdictions, county, state, and federal partners. This included the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and organizations such as Veterans Administration, Help of Southern Nevada, Salvation Army, and Catholic Charities.

Today, with different phases of reopening and still navigating what will be a new reality, Merideth is making downtown a greener place to live and work, nourishing many physically and spiritually, and giving back to her community. For more information or to donate, CLICK HERE.

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Article by: Debbie Hall

Downtown Faith Partners: Merideth & Caridad Gardens
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