A neighborhood backyard has sprung up alongside Echo Park Lake, a collaboration between Echo Park Rise Up and artist Paige Emery (all pictures by Sara Suárez)

LOS ANGELES — Ayman Ahmed, who lives in a tent in Los Angeles’s Echo Park, needed his roses to dwell. He had planted the small rose mattress — “my babies,” he referred to as them — in the neighborhood backyard just a few weeks earlier than, a painted white cross staked in the soil.

The backyard is a collaboration between efficiency artist Paige Emery and Echo Park Rise Up, an autonomous collective of unhoused folks residing at Echo Park Lake for the previous seven months. While most guerrilla gardens are located in vacant tons and deserted pockets of town, this one sits in a extremely trafficked public park, slivered alongside the grassy edges of Echo Park Lake, the place large, swan-shaped pedal boats bob in the water.

LOS ANGELES — Ayman Ahmed, who lives in a tent in Los Angeles’s Echo Park, needed his roses to dwell. He had planted the small rose mattress — “my babies,” he referred to as them — in the neighborhood backyard just a few weeks earlier than, a painted white cross staked in the soil.
Paige Emery and Ayman Ahmed

Emery, a housed neighbor in Echo Park, is a multimedia efficiency artist with a eager curiosity in ecology. A co-director of the activist group the Future Left, she turned concerned with Echo Park Rise Up after attending a memorial for Brianna Moore, an 18-year-old resident of the park who overdosed in August. Now, the place Moore’s tent as soon as stood is a small cross, her pictures tacked onto the wooden, surrounded by onions and tomatoes rising in recycled dresser drawers.

LOS ANGELES — Ayman Ahmed, who lives in a tent in Los Angeles’s Echo Park, needed his roses to dwell. He had planted the small rose mattress — “my babies,” he referred to as them — in the neighborhood backyard just a few weeks earlier than, a painted white cross staked in the soil.
Paige Emery and a member of Echo Park Rise Up working on the neighborhood backyard at Echo Park Lake

In the encampment, residents have jobs: cooking meals, organizing and distributing meals donations, working safety, or cleansing up the trash in the park. Everyone who participates receives 40 {dollars} per day from a communal pot sustained by means of donations to the collective’s money-sharing apps.

“We’re building our own kitchen, we’re building our own medical tent, we’re building our own garden, and we’re building our own way out of poverty,” stated Ahmed, one of many group’s foremost organizers. And but, the encampment remains to be threatened by the routine police sweeps that often strip the houseless of their belongings. “This could be taken down at any moment,” stated Emery.

LOS ANGELES — Ayman Ahmed, who lives in a tent in Los Angeles’s Echo Park, needed his roses to dwell. He had planted the small rose mattress — “my babies,” he referred to as them — in the neighborhood backyard just a few weeks earlier than, a painted white cross staked in the soil.
Sign at Echo Park Lake, “Mayor Eric Garcetti Took Our Showers”

The backyard lends itself to metaphor, inviting language about rootedness, biodiversity, and sowing seeds for the longer term. Emery views it as regenerative work, bringing folks collectively throughout distinction. “All of it has been a collective work between housed people and unhoused people, and between humans and nonhumans, kids who walk by, and adults who live here,” she stated. “That is an eraser of edges.” Every day, she says, one thing new seems that had not been there the day earlier than: a brand new footstool, a contemporary plant mattress, a bouquet of flowers with “For Brianna” scrawled on the skinny, pink tissue wrapping.

LOS ANGELES — Ayman Ahmed, who lives in a tent in Los Angeles’s Echo Park, needed his roses to dwell. He had planted the small rose mattress — “my babies,” he referred to as them — in the neighborhood backyard just a few weeks earlier than, a painted white cross staked in the soil.
Ana Bega, the neighborhood’s cook dinner 

The backyard grows fruit and flowers, and in addition medicinal vegetation, like chamomile, to ease continual stress. “It’s free healing food,” Emery stated. One night, I discovered Emery and Ana Bega, the neighborhood’s cook dinner, reducing up aloe vera. Bega had grown up on a farm in Honduras, and had labored for a few years as a housekeeper in rich neighborhoods like Beverly Hills. The harsh chemical compounds used in the cleansing merchandise might damage your palms, she stated. She sliced the thick stalk of aloe in half and knifed off the clear thick gel, rubbing it over her palms. Later, she would apply a piece of the plant to the wound on one other resident’s shoulder, urgent it towards the uncooked, whitened half the place the pores and skin had abraded.

The community-sourced backyard, Emery stated, fashions an alternative choice to the capitalist values of personal property, shortage, velocity, and individualism. “We have so much scarcity with food. And we don’t have to, you know?” she stated. “This is what I’ve been calling an economy of gifting, because everyone’s giving each other these things, including from nature. The plants are gifting, and we’re gifting to the plants. There’s no capital involved in this. It’s an economy of care.”