Sweet salvation: Homeless men learn urban beekeeping at Acceuil Bonneau
For John Ungar, beekeeping is a form of meditation.
“Even the sound of it -- ‘bzzz’ – it’s like ‘ohm,” said Unger.
Ungar is one of about 50 men who have participated in an urban beekeeping program on the roof of Accueil Bonneau, a Montreal homeless organization.
After his wife died a few years ago, Ungar said his life “fell apart” and he lived for a time in a crack house. During the downturn, he turned to Accueil Bonneau for hot meals.
That’s when he stumbled upon the apiary.
“This place came to my rescue. It’s given me work and activity,” Ungar said.
The program, La Miel de Bonneau, has been in place since 2014 and started out with a few hives. It’s since expanded to house 50,000 bees, and seven other locations have started similar apiaries in the city.
The program offers different jobs for the beekeeping apprentices throughout the seasons. In the spring, volunteers clean the hives and check on the bees health with the help of Alveole, an urban beekeeping company. At the end of the summer, honey is collected and sold.
According to the program’s website, the locally-harvested honey is unpasteurized and has soft hints of mint and flowers.
All sales of the honey are put back into running the shelter.
Aside from a social benefit, the program also has environmental perks. The roving bees help pollinate gardens throughout Montreal and boost perennial greening. Similar urban apiaries have popped up in major cities across the world to help offset dwindling bee populations.
The program provides a sense of order and responsibility for participants, according to Accueil Bonneau’s director of communications and special projects.
“It’s very concrete, it’s specific moves they have to do and they have to be very gentle, which is very different from life on the street,” said Genevieve Kieffer Despres.
With files from CTV Montreal