MONMOUTH — The concept is called Project TLC, a farm where homeless women would live and work, and it's up for a public hearing Wednesday. The town needs to sign off for the group to go after a $100,000 state grant.
Dave Wolfe envisions turning Phoenix Farm into the Transitional Living Center, where he would farm and live with his wife and two children and women who need a hand.
"The gap that we're trying to fill is people that are down and out," Wolfe said. "It's that vicious cycle."
Without a stable home, it's hard to find work, and without stable work, it's hard to find a home, he said.
Partnering with Bill Legere's Foundation for Hope & Grace, Wolfe envisions he and his wife, Sarah, working with up to 10 women at a time; six would live on the property. They would commit to a 40-hour a week unpaid internship and, for those who live on the farm, meals and rent would be covered. He hopes people choose to stay at least a year to experience all the seasons on the farm.
In working the land, he said, women would practice math skills in planting and ordering seeds, and computer skills in tracking of crops and costs, on top of practicing reading, writing and resume skills.
Some may choose to stay in farming; some may take the skills and work in sales, at a restaurant or at a register.
"In my heart, I hope that we'll be able to do a good job in showing them and helping them to see that their work on the farm is giving them skills that aren't just for the farming world," Wolfe said.
Referrals to the program would come from local homeless shelters, at least to start.
"Mainly the questions are going to be on them: Here's what we're going to be doing, what we're going to expect of you. Are you willing to give it a shot?" Wolfe said.
The Phoenix Farm is a three-acre vegetable farm. He'd like to expand it to five acres, eventually adding free-range chickens, sheep and goats, keeping everything grass-fed and pastured.
The goal is to buy the farm after a year and turn Project TLC into a self-sustaining enterprise by 2016.
In the meantime, Wolfe and the foundation are seeking a $100,000 Community Development Block Grant for workforce development from the state that would be channeled through the town but would require no local match.
Part of the application process is holding a public hearing, set for Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the Town Office.
Town Manager Curtis Lunt said selectmen will decide after the public hearing, based on community feedback, whether to submit the application to the state by the Friday deadline.
"Sincerity goes a long way," Lunt said. "Knowing what we know now, it sounds positive."
Wolfe said if the application goes ahead, word could come back as soon as November on the grant. If it's awarded, the money would be set aside by the state while the project works through a more thorough review and it's put to a town vote in a special election.
Ideally, he'd like to see Project TLC in full swing this spring.
"I would love to see women experience the family, community life on the farm, the joys and struggles. We want to be authentic," Wolfe said.