Smart Path Project–Robyn McKeen’s Inspiring Presentation at Smart Solutions Community Recognition Reception

At the Smart Solutions to Homelessness Community Recognition Reception on November 12, 2017, Robyn McKeen presented about “Coordinated Entry,” a strategic priority of our community’s All In Strategic Plan to Prevent, Reduce and Eventually End Homelessness. Homeless Garden Project staff and board members present were inspired and moved by Robyn’s presentation and so we share it with you here.

Smart Path Project Spotlight

Smart Path to Housing and Health is the name of our local coordinated entry system. Coordinated entry is a systems change that streamlines the assessment, eligibility review, referral, and program placement process for programs providing housing services to people experiencing homelessness in our community. Smart Path is a project of our local Continuum of Care, the Homeless Action Partnership- HAP, and the Homeless Services Center is the lead agency for implementation of Phase 1 which will be launching in early 2018.

Many of you have joined us in designing a coordinated entry system that will improve the experience of accessing existing services by simplifying the process, ensuring people are treated with dignity at each step. Other goals of Smart Path include using our community’s limited homeless housing resources as effectively as we can, assisting people to prevent them from becoming homeless in the first place, generating accurate information to be used to improve services and secure new resources, and linking people as quickly as possible to essential services and resources. This image shows the process flow for Smart Path.

  • Outreach and Engagement- Smart Path access points will be located throughout the county.
  • Screening- Not everyone is going to be in a situation where it is appropriate for them to participate in Smart Path that day. Warm handoffs will be made to domestic violence and other crisis service providers as needed.
  • Diversion- Diversion means helping someone to connect with other forms of housing support they may have- family, friends, deposit assistance.
  • Resource Linkage- We are all acutely aware of the significant gap between the available housing resources and the need in our community. One thing we can ensure immediately is that everyone who participates in Smart Path is connected with as many non-housing essential resources as possible like meals, health care, showers, and government benefits.
  • Assessment- One common assessment will be used to collect the eligibility and other information necessary to send solid referrals to each of the housing programs countywide that will participate in Smart Path. We will be using a user-friendly, mobile compatible new Homeless Management Information System as the Smart Path database. The assessment consists of essential eligibility information like household structure and veteran status. In addition, the VI-SPDAT- the Vulnerability Index-Service Prioritization Decision Assistance Tool- will be used to help prioritize housing referrals based on housing program type and participants’ vulnerability based on health and social risks.
  • Program Housing Match- When a program has an opening, a referral will be made based on the program’s eligibility criteria and the participant’s vulnerability as suggested by the VI-SPDAT tool.
  • Housing and Retention- Once a participant is accepted into a program, our phenomenal housing service providers pick up where Smart Path leaves off, providing the care management, housing navigation, and housing retention support that truly enables us to reduce and end homelessness.

I hope you will reach out to me so we can talk about how Smart Path and your projects can support each other. We will be hosting an information session on December 7th, expect to see an invitation in your email in the coming weeks. Smart Path is a significant systems change. We are shifting from our agencies working in siloes of excellence to working in alignment towards our shared goals. We are shifting from programs enrolling people based on first-come, first-served and sheer luck to intentionally prioritizing those in the most need. This is not easy stuff!

Those of us working with people experiencing homelessness are often the very last option people have for support. This is especially true for the most vulnerable people. If we are the very last safety net before living and dying their last days on the streets, then perhaps it is time to consider that we prioritize those that are falling through right now. It will be hard. Really hard, to bring in the hardest-to-house individuals and support them to locate and retain housing in this community. Really hard to turn aside from a person, equally deserving, who is able to navigate these systems with just a little more ease, a little more capacity. But if we do not use our expertise and commitment to prioritize our resources for the most vulnerable, who will?

I tell you honestly that it is entirely unfair that we be faced with these decisions. It is unfair, hard, and never enough. Coordinated Entry and Housing First will not fix that. But these tools are showing up as some of the best ways in our existing societal structure to keep fewer people from spending their last days on the streets.

And it is not enough. It will never be enough alone. We must grab hands and link our homeless response system to all the other systems that have a role to play in preventing our neighbors and our children from becoming poor, sick, abused and homeless in the first place: justice, employment, child care, health care, trauma healing services, substance use disorder prevention and treatment, mental health support, and on and on.

Homelessness is not simply the result of a housing crisis, although that is a huge piece. I believe it is a community, societal problem that has developed over time as a result of policies and social norms that build inequity of resources, opportunities, and perceived human value. Today, as I look around this room, I am grateful that we are the community. Hopeful because we are the society. And we are shaping our policies and values right now. What can we create together? Thank you so much for all the time and love you give to our community.

Robyn McKeen works at the Homeless Services Center as the Smart Path Project Manager, leading the development of the countywide Santa Cruz County coordinated entry system. Prior, she worked as a community organizer at the United Way of Santa Cruz County, resource coordinator at EAH Housing in Santa Clara County, and children’s program manager at YWCA Pathways for Women in Snohomish County, WA. She received her BA in Anthropology from UC Santa Cruz.

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Voices from the Field: Our Volunteers Share Their Stories

Briggs, Lienallie and Becca at the farm

“Service is not a hierarchy but a reciprocity in which the distinctions between teacher and pupil, giver and receiver, helper and helped constantly dissolve.” –Scott London

In honor of Make a Difference Week, we took time to acknowledge our extraordinary community of volunteers, and to reflect on how volunteering with HGP has made a difference in people’s lives.

Becca McKnight is an invaluable member of the HGP community, volunteering at the farm on Fridays, serving food at Sustain Suppers, and connecting with trainees, volunteers, and staff with humility, care and generosity.

We asked Becca to reflect on what her volunteer involvement means to her:
“The Homeless Garden Project is an incredible organization which provides a safe space for people to be held, heard, and given the chance that they deserve. I am enlightened weekly by working on the farm with the crew, where we get to grow and share beautiful food and establish profound connections with both the land and one another.

HGP envisions a thriving and inclusive community, and that vision is surely enacted upon. It’s a place where I can be myself, dig in the most magical dirt, and reflect upon systemic injustices while doing what I can to make a difference.

Extending my hand to such a caring and hopeful community has enriched my life in a multitude of ways, but mostly by making me a better person.

I will never be able to give back even a portion of what this organization has given to me. The Project provides exceptional support, care, and love to those who might need it, and I’m so lucky be one of the many beneficiaries.” – Becca McKnight

Mike Arenson (far left) in the kitchen

Mike Arenson has volunteered for over 3 years, preparing lunch at the farm twice a week for trainees, volunteers and staff. Mike brings to HGP an inspiring commitment, a passion for food and cooking, and a deep care for community.

“When I retired from being Solar Mike, one of my main goals was to be involved in helping people who are homeless in Santa Cruz.


I love to cook and I called the Homeless Garden to see if I could help in their kitchen. They asked if I could start the next day! That was more than three years ago. Since then, I have been volunteering twice a week as a cook, making lunch for the trainees, staff and volunteers at the farm.

I see first-hand how the Homeless Garden Project transforms people’s lives, from the exhausting struggle they face living on the street to being in a place filled with love, purpose, and hope. I am so impressed with the trainees who participate in the program — their communication, the responsibilities they take on, their support for one another and the mission of the project.

I am part of the community, and I receive so much appreciation from many people involved. I love being part of a solution to help people in need.” – Mike Arenson

Norbert Lazar volunteers at the farm one day each week throughout the entire year. He

Norbert in the field

brings his years of experience with gardening to the farm, along with an openness to connect with everyone he meets and works alongside, and a commitment to completing the task at hand with diligence and joy.

“When I first volunteered at HGP I was hoping to get my hands dirty, get some exercise and possibly share my gardening experience with folks.

I didn’t realize how much I would learn, about gardening and about people. HGP is a special place with special energy. The shared food, stories and camaraderie among such a diverse group is truly inspiring.” – Norbert Lazar

Suzanne at the Human Race

Suzanne Heinze has volunteered for over 4 years, working on administrative and financial projects in the office as well as helping out at events on the farm. Suzanne brings dependability, thoroughness, and commitment to our mission.

“Without Suzanne, so much in our office wouldn’t get done. She helps me immensely and provides great support to both our Executive Director, Darrie Ganzhorn, and our Finance Manager, Mary Reyes. She is an essential member of HGP and I am grateful to have her support” – Kim Parisi, HGP Administrative Assistant


The meaningful participation of community members through our volunteer program strengthens the sense of community and belonging for both housed and unhoused people who are impacted by our work.

Our volunteer program creates opportunities every day for people to break down social barriers and address stigmas around homelessness. The relationships of care and trust that evolve over time help to address the experience of isolation and disconnection that is often at the core of an individual’s experience of homelessness.

Cultivating Community, our community education and volunteer program, generates connection and belonging for our trainees and community members, which stands in stark contrast to  recent research from on the harmful effects of isolation and loneliness: “We know that homelessness is a devastating experience and how hard it is to overcome. Yet what this new research shows is also just how much of an isolating and lonely experience it is.

Homelessness means not only losing a roof over your head but also losing regular contact with those that matter to you. Being homeless already means being at heightened risk of mental and physical health problems but we increasingly know just how bad being lonely is for a person’s well-being….

When someone has a greater sense of belonging, fostered by feeling needed, valued, and significant, they achieve better social and psychological functioning. ” (Read the research here.)

While homelessness has multiple causes, we believe that it cannot be addressed without building a strong community of belonging, and so we deeply value our community of volunteers, who add richness and diversity to our daily experience and expand our network of connections.

To learn more about Cultivating Community, HGP’s Community Education and Volunteer Program, please contact



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Be the Difference–Honoring Volunteers at Homeless Garden Project

Patti Workman

More than 2,000 people volunteer each year at Homeless Garden Project, building bridges in our community that make our organization and Santa Cruz strong. We hear from volunteers and trainees every day about the value of our Volunteer and Community Education program, Cultivating Community.

Here are the stories of three of our very special volunteers.

Patti Workman, Volunteer Bookkeeper

As a small non-profit that operates two enterprises and pays wages to the people we serve, HGP has fairly complex bookkeeping processes.   Some years back, we were fortunate to work with Lauren, an intern from the UCSC Economics Department. Lauren came with glowing recommendations and improved our bookkeeping, building a very robust process.  When she graduated from UCSC, Lauren wanted to ensure that her work would continue at this high level. The only person she considered adequate was her mother, a retired engineer, Patti Workman.

Patti loves contributing and loves Santa Cruz. She was looking for a way to get more involved in Santa Cruz. “Volunteering at HGP fulfilled so many things for me. I couldn’t see myself working at the farm with our trainees. I can’t keep anything growing at home. But I felt confident dealing with numbers. Certainly, I’m only a small cog in a larger process to impact our community.

“But HGP makes that impact in the community and I was proud to be a part of the organization. I hear so much about homelessness in California. The numbers are staggering. I believe we should invest in solutions to homelessness, such as HGP.”

Patti’s consistency inspires us–top priority for the bookkeeping function. This is not a high-profile, glory-filled volunteer position. Rather, it is a behind-the-scenes function, which requires discipline, attention to detail, consistency and tirelessness.  Patti always brought a fresh energy and cheerfulness into the office. We are inspired by her ability to recognize how her role fit into the bigger picture. Her enormous commitment to the volunteer position and to making a difference in the lives of people experiencing homelessness inspires deep appreciation!

In Patti’s words, “It was a great opportunity for me. I was in my retirement years, my children were mostly gone. As we’re all living longer, we have more opportunities to contribute. I hope more people can have and take the opportunity to contribute to their community like this.”

Patrick Teverbaugh of the Zen Center

Patrick Teverbaugh and the Zen Center

Over 10 years ago, the Zen Center offered to cook lunch for the trainees in the Homeless Garden Project’s transitional employment and job training program each Friday at the farm. This offer marked the beginning of a formal lunch program at the farm, bringing lunch to a higher level than it had ever been previously. The Zen Center volunteers, under the leadership and facilitation of Patrick, provide a healthy, simple and nutritious lunch drawing from local, organic produce. Each week, they bring the most delicious cornbread, a large pot of soup, and cooked brown rice to share.

Even during the winter months, the Zen Center has adapted to the changing seasonal structure of our programs by transporting lunch to the trainees working in the winter workshop.

The Zen Center and Patrick have made a huge impact on the meal program by example. Even the lunches not prepared on Fridays have taken on the structure and elegance of a complete yet simple meal. The Zen Center volunteers continue to bring a sense of abundance, warmth and care to each lunch they serve to staff, trainees and volunteers.

The Zen Center and Patrick have also modeled what it means to make a long-term,

Some of the Zen Center volunteers, fondly known as the Zennies

consistent commitment to community, developing relationships with folks at the farm and with the organization over a very long period of time. This consistency cannot be over-emphasized, amidst the constantly changing nature of the farm and crew, as well as the instability that comes with experiencing homelessness. The routine and anticipation for “cornbread Fridays” continues to provide a sense of structure and community each week to all who are involved with the Project. Finally, it is clear that each volunteer who is involved in making the lunches a reality brings intention, respect and a deep commitment to service in their participation, both behind the scenes and in serving the food and relating to the farm.

Flower beds and morning light at HGP Farm

Joanne Slater, Enterprise Volunteer

Joanne Slater began volunteering with the Homeless Garden Project at the beginning of 2017. Joanne worked with us through Second Careers Employment Program, then moved on to work with another nonprofit organization. She volunteered with us in her free time.

Joanne primarily volunteered within the Value-Added Enterprise where we make products using herbs and flowers from our organic farm to sell in our retail store and online.  In her volunteer role, she is committed to getting each and every task perfect to ensure the integrity of the products and to shine the brightest light on the Project.  She is always willing and able to take on any new task asked of her, and shows up each week with a deep care and contagious enthusiasm for the work.

From experimenting with calendula and lavender to infuse in various lotions and salves to staffing the pop-up store, Joanne has integrated herself into multiple aspects of the value-added enterprise in significant and inspiring ways. For example, the Project received a donation of coffee bean burlap bags and came up with market tote bag idea.  Joanne worked with a local artist and seamstress to make a concept bag and has been sewing them at home for the Project to sell this holiday season. The Project also received a donation of yarn in many different colors.  Joanne took this home too, to make hats, infinity scarves and fingerless gloves to be sold in the retail store. Finally, Joanne has also been trained in our retail store and works to cover staff members when we are unavailable.

As a Service Enterprise–an organization that fundamentally leverages volunteers and their skills across all levels of the organization to successfully deliver on our social mission–Joanne plays an important role. By taking on all of these varied projects and roles that we would otherwise not have the capacity to complete, Joanne supports the enterprise activities that are the basis of our training program and employment activities, while also bringing in revenue. Her dedication and fortitude are immeasurable. Thank you Joanne!



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I Promised Myself

Donna spoke at our 2017 Downtown Store Gala Holiday Open House on December 1, 2017.  The trainees had been working in the workshop for over a month, creating wreaths, decorating our beeswax candles, making our bath and body products, baking mixes, herb salts and much more! This Open House celebrated our trainees’ work and achievements.

Hello everyone, welcome. I’m Donna Marie and I’m a trainee at the Homeless Garden Project in my fifth month of the up-to-12-months training and transitional employment program – the time has gone by so fast. I feel very honored to be asked to speak here tonight.

The Homeless Garden Project employs people who are homeless and trains them to get back into the working world. HGP is a farming program that teaches people all aspects of organic gardening, including planting, growing, and harvesting plants and vegetables. It’s a place that can really give you passion about going to work.

Years ago, before I became homeless, I owned a flower shop, so when I came to the garden, I was excited to plant and grow flowers. I enjoy making the flowers into products such as wreaths, decorated candles, lotions, teas, and salts – all of which are sold to the public here at this location.

I’ve been a hard worker all my life, so I never thought I would be homeless, but homelessness happens. If you lose your job suddenly, you are two paychecks away from being on the street.

After being on the street a long time, I promised myself to be inside before the end of this year. First, I worked to get my driver’s license back and get a Section 8 voucher. I also trained to be an In-Home Support Service worker (IHSS).

Then, I got employed at HGP. The job at the Garden was what I needed to get housed – it allowed me to be accepted as a resident at Page Smith Community House. I’ve been there for two months now. I share a house with 4 other people and it’s just wonderful to be inside and not have to deal with cold weather or spend all day “outside.” I’m so grateful to have a roof over my head.

I’ve also found two other jobs since starting this program. In addition to the 20 hours per week I work at HGP, I work 25 hours per week though In-Home Support Services with Susan, who is 79 and blind. Meeting her was love at first sight. I also clean a house once per week, as well.

When I was homeless, I spent a lot of my time trying to help others. The garden has taught me to focus on myself first before I can help anyone else – an important lesson. Working at the garden, I gained structure – something I was without on the streets. Without it, you go nowhere.

Love is what they teach at the garden – to love yourself and then others. Listen and love each other and love what you do. I love working at the Homeless Garden Project.

–Donna Marie

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Here, Amongst the Flowers and Vegetables

Lienallie gave this talk at Permaculture Action Day at our farm on November 4, 2017.  Over the course of the day, about 200 people gathered to take part in a day of hands-on regenerative projects, music, shared food, workshops, and taking action as a community. Lienallie spoke about her experience in Homeless Garden Project’s transitional employment program.  Here are her remarks.

Hello, welcome and thank you for your interest in the Homeless Garden Project and for your presence here today. I’d like to give a special thanks to Permaculture Action Network, for their advocacy work in the community, and to Beats Antique. My name is Lienallie and presently I am a trainee soon to be completing the one year program.

Homeless Garden Project is a training program that provides employment, weekly education in computer skills, and job training, which is all based on the utilization of the organic farm and the products we make using raw materials from the farm. But HGP provides so much more.

In my time here, I experienced deep relationships with trainees and employees, due to the level of dedication the staff exemplifies in the high holistic work they perform, and how and why they choose to do so, and what it cultivates on a personal and community level.

I’d like to share how I came to be in this program. Prior to entering this program, my life was probably parallel to many of yours. I had a job, a house and many plans and goals for my future. However when my job dissolved, I experienced both homelessness and the loss of stability. In short, I felt completely hopeless.

I was raised in a single parent household, the youngest of six siblings, and I experienced the loss of my Dad at a very young age. The loss manifested into a deep anger within my spirit, which still affects me today. This anger has lead to difficulties within my personal and professional relationships and ultimately led to my arrival at HGP. It seemed as my life dissolved one stitch at a time.

The farm has given me the platform to evolve beyond the anger that has held me back.

Here amongst the flowers and vegetables we replant our own paths in life. We cry, laugh and work together. We push forward into all we are destined to become because we have been gifted with the time to grow on the farm at HGP. This unique organic 3.5 acre farm offers so much more to its community and trainees. HGP is a symbiotic, viable tool interfacing to assist those at the bottom, with a willingness to work their way back up.

We’ve all heard the statement “progress is two steps forward and one step backward.” My journey of progress required just that.

Listening to Lienallie

HGP has offered me the ability to catch up with myself emotionally, and showed me how to interface with people in my community in a productive fashion, to achieve a higher degree of skills both technically and personally. Of all the skills I’ve acquired here at the farm, most important to me is the ability to be an effective communicator. I plan to continue to develop this skill, which will serve me for a lifetime.

In closing, thank you again for this opportunity to share my experience at the farm. I’m so thankful for the farm and the opportunity to transform my anger that ultimately held me back. The sum of my words would be deficient if I didn’t acknowledge our many volunteers, and how integral they are to the overall success of our program.

I’d like to leave you with this metaphor. I crawled in like a caterpillar and am emerging as a butterfly. I look forward to seeing you on the farm in the future!

–Lienallie Azevedo is pleased to say she has secured a job that begins after her graduation from HGP, and has enrolled at Cabrillo College for the upcoming Spring Semester. She’s presently looking for secure housing–such as a room–to achieve completion of her goals. (Contact with any leads.)


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2016 Annual Report: Donors

Many Thanks to All of Our Generous Donors in 2016. Our Garden and Our Trainees Couldn’t Grow Without You!

Sustainer of the Garden ($25,000 and over)

Quentin Hancock             Newman’s Own Foundation

Nurturer of the Garden ($10,000-$24,999)

Monterey Peninsula Foundation      George L. Shields Foundation, Inc.

Patrice Boyle        Cody Swift        Synod of the Pacific

Grower of the Garden ($5,000-$9,999)

City of Santa Cruz        Lakeside Organic Garden        Kevin Miller

Scott Roseman and Jasmine Berke        The San Francisco Foundation

Randy and Kate Whiting and The Brownstone Foundation

The Christensen Fund        Joanna Miller

Cultivator of the Garden ($2,500-$4,999)

New Leaf Community Markets      Jerry and Sylvia Deck      Rainbow Light

Trinity Source Group      UNFI Foundation     Anonymous

Brian and Patricia Herman      Jennifer Jones      Grace Voss

Sower of the Garden ($1000-$2499)

Vera & Elliot Aronson      Awe Sum Organics      California Certified Organic Farmers, Inc.

Driscoll’s      Mary Edmund      Marilyn Corson Everlane      Fidelity Charitable Fund

Jacobs Farm-Del Cabo Inc.      Joseph & Louise O’Toole Foundation      Bonnie Keet

Tom Lehrer      Brian O’Toole      Outstanding in the Field      George Ow

Kathy and Michael Sherman      Eta Somekh Family Foundation

Presbytery of the Redwoods      Akif Uzman and Amy Sater      Alice Waters

Naomi and Asher Brauner       Allison and Douglas Garcia

Edward and Claire Bacher      Joan Springhetti      Cathy Calfo

Elizabeth Burton and Andrew Firebaugh      Jim Howes      Jonathan Franzen

Alexander and Jean Grillo      Kathy Runyon      Peter and Patricia Biocini

Matt and Peg Guerrieri      Ellen Martin      Jeanette and Klaus Katzlberger

Margaret McCue      Joan Osborne      County of Santa Cruz      Becky and Jim Lang

John Allured      Furthur Foundation      Austin Sherwood      Ralph Alpert

Rosemary and Simon Hayward      Sally Shepherd      Joe Mingione

Supporter of the Garden ($500-$999)

Anonymous     Artistic Reflections      Bank of America United Way

Katherine Beiers      Mathew and Josephine Birnbaum      Dan Blunk      Vicky Britton

Harold Brockman      Dale Buche      Justin Carr      Gerald and Bonnie Christensen

Krista and Scott Colquitt       Eric Cotts     Arthur Coulston      Pamela E Davis

Joan Delfino      Martha and Patrick Dexter      Dwayne and Linda Downing

Exxon Mobil Foundation      Karen Fraser      Brett Fredericks     Freedom Lions Club

Alexander Gaguine      Benjamin Gallant     Frank and Susan Ganzhorn     Douglas Garcia

Michelle Gates      Sheila and Dean Gottehrer       Nancie Graham      Charity Guerrero

Dennis Hagen      Mary Ellen Hannon      Barbara and Stephen Jackel      Steven Keller

Jeanne and Doug Korns      Val Leoffler and Doug Hellinger      Mark Lipson

Nancy Loshkajian      Srina Lynne      Marilyn Manning      Eloise Martindale

Angelina McClellan      Matthew Nathanson      Aura Oslapas and Bob Arko

Jonathan Partridge      Nick Pavlina       Sue Pierce      Presbyterian Church of Los Gatos

Ann Ramer      Kathy Ready       Sonia Rodriguez       Grace Sanchez and Thomas Bush

Meg Sandow      Andrew Shore      Diane Simpson       Alexandra Snyder       Helen Taylor

The Ruth M. McGee Family Trust      Susana Traber      Trinity Drilling, Inc.

Max Turri and Kim Eabry      Martha Vickers      Denise Vogel

William L and Carol Wass     Sarah Wasserman and Ron Emerson     Linda and Ron Weaver

Habib Zakerani and Mahnaz Motayar      Lori Zink

Cultivator of Community ($250-$499)

Lynne and Dan Alper      Ginny Aragon      Robin Atwood      Yong Bai      Anna Bartolini

Lillian and Thomas Beggs      Ted and Nancy Biagini       Joya and Daniel Birns

Elizabeth Brennan      Linda and Walt Brown      Bonnie Brunet      John Burr

Linda Charman      Howard and Lisa Charnock      Cynthia Chase

Anne Marie and Carl Christensen      Janice Cockren     Richard Coffey    Margaret Collins

David and Mary Jane Cope      Dawn Coppin      Covenant Presbyterian Church

Olga De Santa Anna      David Dexter      Patrick Dexter      Discretion Brewing

Joshua Drews      Emily DuBois      Eventbrite      Matthew Farrell

John Faulkner      David Fryxell      Darrie Ganzhorn      Peter Gelblum

Roxana Goin      Henry and Carol Goldberg      Kathryn Gordon      Linda Graham

Lindsey Grahm-Jones      Pat Henderson      IBM Employee Services Center

Bob and Betty Imlay       JustGive      Jon Kersey and Alice Benet       Michelle Kong

Phil Kramer      John Laird       Grace Laurencin      Live Like Coco Foundation

Julianna Lin      Deborah Luhrman      Nancy MacLean      Suzanne MacLean

Barbara Meislin      Mesiti-Miller Engineering, Inc.     Alexis Morgan      Thomas Nelson

Joyce Nordquist      Irene Osterbrock      Charlene and Leo Ott      Patagonia Outlet

Armand Petri and Wendy Johnson      Sharon and John Pettigrew       Karleen Quick

Felicia Rice       Blair Roberts       Marilyn Robertson      Teresa Ronsse       Dorothy Ruby

Carolyn and Darryl Rudolph      John Russell      David and Mary South

Peter Szydlowski      Edgar Thrift      Richard Verrow and Ann Russell      Janet Volpe

Jackie and Peter Whiting     Lloyd and Bonnie Williams    Rick Wright and Tamara Santos

Andrew Wulf

Friend of the Garden ($100-$249)

A Tool Shed Equipment Rentals      Marty Ackerman      Adventure with a Cause

Janet Akaha      Leyna Allred      Alta Coffee      Archbishop Mitty High School

Christine and Bradley Asmus      Verna Bacon      Adrianna Bailey      Robert Balweg

Charles R. Barnes      Carolina Bayne      Marianne Beckwith      John Belz

Andrew Bensky      Russel and Erica Berg      Jane Blackman      Judy Blevins

Nancy and Henry Bley      Susan and Robert Bosso      Thomas and Rita Bottoms

Marcia Brandwynne      Jesse D Bregman and Ziggy Rendler Bregman      Jeff Brittan

John Brown and Family Cycling Center      Nancy and Glen Brown      Ian Bruce

Jesse Burgess      Edmund and Carolyn Burke      Cecily Cahill

Coleen Cantwell and W. Scott Berry      Teresa Carley      Andy Carman      Will Cassilly Jr.

Kathy Chetkovich      Circle Church      Lawrence and Arvilla Cline      Benjamin Coates

Jesse Cohn      Gena and John Connelly      Teresa Connor      Barry Cowen

Connie Croker      Deborah Culmer      Joan DeNeffe      Lucille Des Jardins      Peggy Dilfer

Emily and Lee Duffus      Roberta Dunton      Edward and Janas Durkee

Steve Eabry and Jane Wheeler      David Engberg      Amy Kellington Evans

Andi Wass and Scott Failor     Bonnie Faraola     Marty Feldman

Margaret and Donald Fitzgerald      Christina Floyd      Bob and Denise Fosburgh

Jane Freedman      Mimi French      Judy Fried and Bob Scowcroft

The Garden Company      Brett Garrett      Anne and Curtis Gavin      Kathy Gertler

Daryl Gerwin      Maria Gitin      David Go      Joann and Marc Godoy

Wesley Grass      Richard Griffith and Margaret Perham

John Hall and Jenny Broome      Penny Hanna      Hanna Hannah      Analise Hanneman

Debbie Harless      Rosalind and Harold Hastings      Edward Hearn and Linda Arnold

Farol Henderson and Mike Vickers      Joan and Patrick Henry      Nancy Hiestand

Hilda Hodges and Don Hodges, M.D.      Linda Hogan      Denise Holbert     Gregory Holmes

Margaret Horton      Jeanne Howard      Tawney Hughes      The Humana Foundation

Sam Huynh and Gabrielle Korte      Robin Imlay and Jeffrey Hing

Christine and John Irving      Lee Jaffee      Mary James      John and Judy Jeter

Abigail Jones      Susan Kauffman and Steve Lustgarden

Patrice and Robert Keet      Claudia Kenyon      Amy Key

Robert and Michele Kibrick      Elaine Kihara and David Sweet      Wendy King

Richard Kittler      Joyce Kutcher      Jessica Lacy

Geoffrey Lamb      Linda Larkin      Lesley Lathrop      Eric Laumann

Keith and Florence Lesar      Hans Leuthold      Lynn and Kim Lew      Meryl Lewin

Lighthouse Bank      Tracy Ligon      S Paige Liu      Sheldon Logan      Richard Lonergan

Glenn Lyons and Nancy Gerdt      Annette March      Elaine Matthews

Tina M Mazzei      Cory McCabe      Nancy McCalister and William McCalister, Sr.

Timothy McCormick and Noel De Gelleke      Brian & Shea McElroy      Lynn McKibbin

Nicholas Meier and Elizabeth Good      Andrew Meisel      Nick Meltzer and Anita Diaz

Minerva Mendoza      David Mercer      Grace Merritt      Craig Metz

Betty and Peter Michelozzi      Abbie and Tim Miller      John Miller      Mark Miller

Matthew Miller and Janet Kaseda      Marlene Mirassou and Steve Houlins

Morgan Stanley      Dana Morrison      Jonathan Mosney

Julie Murphy      Andrew and Linda Neher      Saugher Ngan      Randell Nielsen

Sarah Nielsen      Phyllis Norris     Notre Dame San Jose     Ariane Otto

Pacific Collegiate School      Janet Parker and Bruce Berwald      Pamela and Al Patrick

William Pearlman      Dianne and Stephen Pereira      Monica Pielage and Blake Cooper

Henry and Wilma Plummer      Prima Salon      Ellen Primack and Eric Schmidt

Jean and Edward Ranck      Rowland and Pat Rebele

Craig Reinarman      Resurrection Church      Barbara and Robin Riggins

Roger and Dory Rindge      Lisa Rose      Rossi’s Body Shop & Towing Service

Donald and Diana Rothman      Donna Runnalls      William Salmansohn

San Lorenzo Middle School      Jagan Sankaranarayanan     Santa Cruz County Bank

Judy and Jim Schultze      Schwab Charitable Fund     Peter and Celia Scott      David Senter

Laurie Senter      Shen’s Gallery & Imports, Inc.      Judith and John Shepherd

Sheril Shipe      Jacob Sidman and Kris Sidman-Gale      Nikki Silva and Charles Prentiss

Nirvikar Singh       Carol and Tom Smith      William Snell

St. Andrew Presbyterian Church      Amy Stewart      Mark Stone

Eva Strnad and Doug Sherman      Mary Strunk and Kent Dannehl

Thomas Sutfin and Ann Baier      Woutje Swets      Rohanshah Talip      Dee Tannenbaum

Brise Tencer      Terre and Charles Thomas      Nils Tikkanen      Carol Tougas

Transcend Insights, Inc.      Giselle Tsering      Kristen Tsukushi      Katherine Van Sluys

Pamela Vesley      Mike Vignau      Volunteer Center of Santa Cruz County

Carri and Steven Wagner      Kyle Wagner      Jenni and Nathan Ward

Michael and Susan Warren      Kerstin Wasson and Bruce Lyon     Stan and Margitta Welsh

Mary Wieland and Ronnie Lipschutz       Will Swim For Food      Richard and Nicci Winner

Jonathan and Susan Wittwer      Janice Zappa       Judy Ziegler

Farmer in Training ($100 dollars or less)

Tammy Abraham      Janet Acheatel      Leila Al-Hamoodah      Mark Alexander

Judy Allen and Susan Seaburg      Patrick Allmann      John and Jennifer Anderson

Linda and William Anderson       Jaime Andres-Larsen      Linda Armstrong

Jeff and Rita Aron      Shannon Arrechea       Abbey Asher      Cecilia Avila-Gallo

Madelaine Baer      Esther Barbour and Anthony Crane      Mary Ellen Barr

Nibby and Mark Bartle      Courtney Bass      Sarah Beaver      Donna Becker

Valerie Bengal      Elaine Bennet       Cher Bergeon      Len Beyea

Donald Biek      Gretchen Bishop       Sandra Borak       Stuart Brager      Babette Brekka

Greg and Ching Brodsky       Jeffrey Brown      Hilary Bryant      Megan and George Bunch

Justine Bykowski      Cafe Cruz      Ruth Campbell      Susan Cannon and David Borders

Catherine and Max Carithers      Glenn and Denise Carter      Mahala Carter

Cen-Con Inc.      Joanne Chamberlin      Sarah Clarkson

Cynthia Cline and George Bloomstrand      Tracy Cole and Jon Jiles

Rebecca Cole and Howard Malcolm      Tyler Comann     Madeline Conlon

A. Copernicus       Jack and Susan Cortis     Michael Coulson      Jo Covone      Aaron Cozen

Barbara Crane       Chris Creighton      Janice Crooks and Robert Jorgensen

Gregory Crosswhite      James and Joyce Crowley      Mary Cunningham

Nanda Currant      Barbara Cushing     Kelly Damewood

Christine DeLapp       Jan and Edwin Dexter      Sharon Dirnberger      Monika Dorough

Richard and Diane Doubrava      Virginia Draper      Andrew Drescher      Geoff Dugwyler

Joan and Bill Dunn      Beth Dyer      Anne Easley      Sabrina Eastwood

Nadav Eiron      Ericsson Employee Engagement Fund

Christine Louise Evans and Nicholas Ross     Barbara Fagan-Smith

Yvonne Falk      Fat Wreck Chords      Kimberly Ferm      Andrew and Betsy Finfrock

Jan and Jerry Finney      Steve and Jan Fischer      Marianna and James Franks

Mark Fredisdorf     Ann Freitas      Carol A Fuller

Silva Galstyan      Betty Gangware       Lisa Garmat

Michael Gasser      Jonathan Gelder      David Giannini      Lynne and William Giles

Joyce and Joseph Giunta      Robert Goff and Eleanor Littman      Edward Goldberg

Amber Goldfeld      Lois and Walter Goldfrank      Ellis Goldfrit      Juliet Goldstein

Meg Goldstein      Lynn Gordon      Melanie Grimm      Karen Groppi       Diane Grunes

David Guerrieri      Evin Guy      Yannis Guzman      Nathan Hahn      Alex Halbach

Darcy Zwissig      Meg and Don Harlor      Lulane Harrison      Jennifer Heeter

Terra Heilenbach       Joan and David Hentges      Elba and Joe Hernandez

Joel Herzel      Karen Hicks       Daniel and Rebecca Hollingsworth      Sean-Michael Holman

Home School Group       Eddy Howard      Nikki Howe      Marcia Hunt      Intel Corp.

Roberta Jaffe      Anne Jeffrey      Wes Jordan       Bruce and Pina Kamolnick

Aurora Kasten      Vern Katz and Deb Dotters      Dilpreet Kaur

Donald and Barbara Keeler       Terrill and Robin Keeler      Susan Kerr      Nihar Khedekar

William and Jennifer Kingsley      Jack Kisling      Alisa Klaus      Pat Klein

Kathryn Kovaleff      Lindsay Kozicz      Susan Krivin and David Ohanesian     Ana Krulec

Michael Laffoon       Pamela and Charles Landram

Don Lane and Mary Howe      Deanne Lange      Suzanne Langridge      Monica Larenas

Edward Larson      Elizabeth Lass       Isabella Lee      Erik and Dolores Lenander

L. Stevan Leonard       Talia Lesser      Nancy and John Lingemann       Kirsten Liske

Cornell Littell and Bill Littell, Jr.      Don Livesay      William Locke-Paddon

Golden Love and Beth Love      Karen Lynch      Bridget Lyons      Jolie Ma

Martine Mahoudeau       Keri Maijala       Kay Mascoli      Ronald Maysenhalder

Sharon Mckinstry      Ginger McNally      Fred and Marianna Mejia

Kathryn Metz      Nada Miljkovic      Anne and Owen Miller      Matt Miller

Robert Monsen      Michael Morton and Nancy Lewis

Kristin Mun       Emily Musgrave      Norman Nelson       Susan Nelson

Sonya Newlyn and Jeff Stock       Lydia Nichols      Vicki Noble

Shane and Christie O’Brien       Cheri O’Neil     Organic Trade Association

Vivienne Orgel     Glenn Oviatt      Cameron Partridge      Gary and Marilyn Patton

Julia Patton      Susan Payne      Erika Perloff      Joyce Perrelli

Priscilla and Sidney Peters      Scott Poncetta      Patricia Poritzky      Siddharth Priya

Steven Ramirez      Beth Rankin      Cory Ray      Jake Retz      Loren Reynolds

Mary and George Reynolds       Julianne Rhodes     Alfred J and Maureen Richard

Bill and Pam Richter      Diane Rivas

Daniel Roddick and Janet Capanna       Eleanor and Hans Rosenhast       Gilbert Rothweiler

Teresa Rousse      Ruth and Nick Royal      Yaron Rozenbaum and Andrea Amoedo

Diann Russell      Mark Sabo       Lanier Sammons      Santa Cruz Garden Club

Catherine Sarto      Alan Savat and Gene Smith     Shirley Schiffrin     Terri Schneider

Cora Schoppe     Anthony Schumacher      Ruth Segal      Jack Senter        Emily Senz

Laura Shepardson       Joyce Shimizu      Sheila Siegel

Sandra Silver       Mario Singleterry and Lori Fukuda      Jeff Sipe

Bertine and Ken Slosberg      Andreas Slovacek      Angie Smith      Donna Smith

Maggie Smith      Margaret Smith      Therese Smith      Claire Sommargren

Carol Souza       Specialty Studios      Michael Spitalnik       Robert Stayton

Robert Stockwell and Stacy Kamehiro      Wendy Strimling      Mary and James Sundeen

Angela and Julius Surkis      Irantha Suwandarathna      V Swaminathan

Neal and Kathleen Swanson       James Thompson      Matthew Thompson      Ann Timm

James Tucker and Laura Kaplan      Jennifer Tyson      UC Berkeley Alternative Breaks

Ruth Updegraff and Mark Hamersly      Vanguard Realtors      Diana Vaniotis

Andrea Vettori and Margaret Winters      Boaz Vilozny and Madeline Harrison

Dick and Marion Vittitow       Nikolas Vogt      Karl von Ahnen      Richard Voss

Larry Wallman      Meris Walton      John and Sandra Warren      Elizabeth Watson

Judy Weaver-Lowenberg      Jane Weed and Ronald Pomerantz

Katherine and Barry Welch       Eliana Willis      Paul and Katherine Winkler

Paul Winter      Norm Winton      Nanlouise Wolfe      Sarah Wood

Inbal Yassur       Charlene Young       Marie Young      Youth NOW

Jan and Margaret Ysselstein      Maria Zamudio and Patricia Shea

Rick Zinman and Doreen Schack      Nina Zoppi

IN-KIND Donations

Bob Carlton Graphics           ADP      Koppes Plants      KSCO – AM

Mike Arenson      Sage Farrell      A Tool Shed Equipment Rentals      Sharlene Goings

Kathy Haber      Lisa Johnson      La Selva Beach Community Church      Mission Floors

New Leaf Community Markets      Anne Cawleg      William Elliot      Stephanie Friedrich

Stephanie Kubala      Suzanne MacLean      Mobile Auto Glass      Rose Murphy

Stella Sexmith      Joanne Yablonsky      Caroline Groux      Kelly Rodamer

Santa Cruz Retired Employees Association


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Shelter from the Storm

Justin gave this talk to guests at Homeless Garden Project’s Sustain Farm Supper, 9.16.2017

Good Evening!  First of all, I would like to thank everyone for being here tonight.  And an extra special thank you to Mr. Tom Steyer and Ms. Kat Taylor  for volunteering your time and energy to be with us tonight.

But whether you are here to volunteer, work, donate, or simply enjoy a wonderful night with great company and delicious fresh farm to table food, thank you, sincerely, for being here.

Coe Holtaway photo

It is truly an honor to be asked to speak at such a special occasion, and I am grateful for the opportunity to be able to express myself.

So I have decided I will begin tonight like we do every Tuesday morning at circle, and have a check-in.  Tuesday morning circle can get a little personal, and I promise my share tonight won’t be any different.

My name is Justin and I am a trainee at the Homeless Garden Project.  Tonight, other than being a little nervous, I am doing great and happy to get the opportunity to share this evening with y’all and eat world class food in the middle of my favorite field in the town of Santa Cruz.  It’s September, so the autumn weather (which is my favorite) is beginning to arrive and some north west swells are beginning to hit our shores.  So naturally, I am stoked.

Other times though, I am a mess.  Though I am blessed with a wonderful family,  who was able to make it tonight, and great education, I also have a thing called unspecified bipolar disorder and am in recovery from a drug and alcohol problem.  These times when I’m unstable, I think about all of the felonies I have gotten for things I’ve done while manic and psychotic. A different Justin than the one who is talking here today.  Like a bewitched Don Quixote, I have literally scared the crap out of friends, parents, siblings, and neighbors, and burnt bridges with several landlords and employers.  I cry when I think about it.  Who is ever going to give me a real job? Who is going to let me rent from their property with my background of psychotic behavior?

When I have these thoughts, it feels utterly hopeless and helpless, and I think about all of the people, just in this little town of Santa Cruz who must feel the same way. Many people like me, who have mental health or substance abuse problems end up on the streets. Most aren’t lucky enough to end up in a rehabilitation center like me, with a bed to sleep in and a roof over their head.

And this is why I am grateful for the Homeless Garden Project, which every day, when I come to work, gives me hope.

Tonight is a representation of a community recognizing these issues, and a small independent non-profit organization trying to do something about it.  I will say from a trainee’s perspective, we, collectively, are extremely thankful for this project. Hella thankful.  The HGP provides a safe and sober work environment where we can come to be relieved from the problems we face outside either on the street or in recovery centers.  As Bob Dylan would put it, the HGP provides Shelter From the Storm.

The Homeless Garden Project offers work to all of us without discrimination, regardless of our criminal background, substance abuse, or mental health backgrounds as long as we share the same goal of finding a full-time job and housing.  Not only does the program offer indiscriminate acceptance, but the work we do promotes healthy healing.  The seeds we plant do not discriminate and the flowers blossom for everyone, regardless of their age, race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic background.  This garden is a true place of acceptance and I welcome and thank everyone here for being a part of the beauty of this acceptance.

If you are here tonight, it is likely you realize that today we live in a difficult age where our mind, our bodies, our society, and our relationships are out of whack.  Our society is fragmented by income inequality and stressors are driving many of us out of control.

Again HGP comes to the rescue.  Gardening is a universal grounding practice that teaches us stillness and relieves anxiety.  At least I have found this for me  and have felt incredible personal growth and inner stillness in the garden.

So tonight, that was my share.  I invite each and everyone of you to someday join us on a Tuesday morning, so we can hear yours  I feel the more we open up and be honest about our situations, the more we can all personally heal.  Thank you all once again, and I wish you all a good evening!

Justin started as a trainee this May. He currently lives at New Life Recover Center. He studied Philosophy at Middlebury College before getting his MA degree at Monterey Institute for International Studies. He’s a surfer, an avid sportsman, a musician and a writer. In addition to working at HGP, he currently works at Epicenter Orchards and milks goats and a cow at a homestead in Happy Valley.

Justin started as a trainee at the HGP in May of this year.  He currently lives at New Life Recovery Center. He studied Philosophy at Middlebury college before getting his MA degree at Monterey Institute of International Studies. He’s a surfer, an avid sportsman, a musician and a writer. [Do you want all that here? Sure, why not] In addition to working at HGP, he currently works at (Freddy’s farm – Epicenter Orchards) and milks goats and a cow at a homestead in Happy Valley.
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Shepherd’s Purse

My name is Ali. My favorite flower, Shepherd’s Purse, is a weed. You can find an abundant amount of it in the cracks in the sidewalks along the streets and even next to the highway. It is strong and delicate with roots that can survive and help to heal dying soil. it has small heart-shape seeds that contain properties that help to clot blood and used to be used to survive battle wounds. When I run into this weed I remember that I’m alive and surviving, vulnerable and beautiful, and able to be of service — a part of all things living and dead.

I think everyone has a seed of intention that they are born with waiting to blossom and be a part of the universe. For most of my life, I felt in search or in need of a guide to help me navigate my path. Even as a child, I felt a deep desire to help other people be happy and I would play with them so we could have moments of truth together.

Growing up I felt the suffering of my family, with an addict father and a single mother struggling to sustain my sister’s and my life. I found the bigger picture in which we live, and turned towards helping to heal others and the world–create social change so we could all live in a happy, sustainable life of abundance and love. I joined various movements working on social change, but the more I jumped from place to place, I was always faced with myself, fighting and full of anger, and allowing it to feed my addiction.

Addiction is a hereditary disease of the brain, recognized by the American Medical Association. When my addiction was activated and become so bad that I was using 24/7, completely isolated, constantly on the verge of complete homelessness and unable to love, headed quickly towards a sure death, I realized I had lost my intention. I was no longer growing and I knew I could, so I chose to do something different.

I admitted myself to Janus, an inpatient rehab center, and spent two months there. When I graduated, I had little direction, and a lot of desperation, hope and faith. But most importantly I had a guide, my Higher Power. Immediately I was hired as a trainee for the Homeless Garden Project, a place where I found security, and sustainability, a lot of opportunity to heal and to cultivate life and practice social change. I was a seed of intention, given the right environment, elements, community…nurtured, determined, hard-working, and growing so that I could offer myself to the world like a tomato plant tomatoes and we get to make a salad and share it together at lunch time!

The Homeless Garden Project practices social change. Creating social change is a practice of sustainability, by co-creating community, sharing food, helping each other and the earth to heal, and live within today’s circumstances by providing security. There is a lot of unsustainability in the universe, all the way up to all the various technologies we don’t know how to clean up out of the atmosphere because we cannot afford it. This is how capitalism works, it needs more and more to sustain itself and only itself. Homelessness is an inevitable outcome.

The donations that go straight toward the trainees’ wages are an act of care and giving, the exact opposite of how capitalism works. It subverts capitalism, without creating a fight, but by helping others make a transformation. I hope that we continue to build this community in which all people and living things are supported on their life paths, so that seed of intention that they hold within them can blossom and belong to the universe.

Ali graduated from the Homeless Garden Project. She has found her path, working as a preschool teacher and going back to school for a Waldorf Teacher Training program. She is able to help play and cultivate imagination in the most loving and open children’s lives that she works with. She continues at Homeless Garden Project as a volunteer.




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A State of Being Akin to Drowning

Shannon McGurk (left) at Homeless Garden Project's Sustain Supper, June 2017

Shannon spoke at our Sustain Farm Supper on June 10, 2017 to over 200 people.

Good evening. My name is Shannon McGurk and I am a trainee at the Homeless Garden Project.

This experience has been a genuine blessing in so many ways during a particularly transformative part of my life.

From a very conservative Roman Catholic upbringing as the oldest of fourteen children, through an enlistment in the United States Marine Corps, and finally after four chaotic years of homelessness, I found myself fresh out of incarceration, unemployed and genuinely hoping to transform an entirely unmanageable life into one where I was a functional member of society.

The social worker responsible for overseeing my transition to normalcy was the one who introduced me to this project and, after a trial period, I was given the opportunity to participate in the program and begin forging a life I knew I was worth.

The Homeless Garden Project is an excellent way to introduce a sustainable transition to living a life of moderate stability, in contrast to the feral nature of America’s homeless scene. I had the most success using the Project in tandem with a completely sober way of living, with some help from the AA and NA community of Santa Cruz.

When an individual becomes homeless in America, through a multitude of life choices, their situation and options change dramatically, and this spectrum of conditions is so different, for so many people.

In my time living outside in Santa Cruz, I had accumulated a plethora of non-violent offenses.

It is illegal to sleep outside at night in most of the United States, so unless you’re hidden quite well, the police will show up and write you a ticket, and this occurred much more frequently than any other charge with me.

During my period of homelessness and addiction, I developed a great deal of empathy for all types of people on the street. With society’s general attitude towards panhandlers and the homeless, I, along with many other people, chose to find solace and escape in alcohol and other mind-numbing substances.

When I would get too drunk and when the police began to find me drinking habitually, I started getting arrested simply on the suspicion of being drunk in public. Eventually, with mounting tickets that I couldn’t hope to pay, I was given 8 months in jail, which, due to overcrowding, was actually only four.

In short, being homeless in America is a state of being that is akin to drowning, with society circling in a lifeboat alternately asking why you’re drowning, berating you for drowning, and demanding payment to come aboard. Upon release, I found the idea of repeating this cycle unbearable, and decided to remain sober and hoped to change my life.

When I was released my social worker informed me that the project was running a two-week trial hire for up to 15 new employees. After applying, I remember being very eager to try this relatively new idea of keeping a job, something I hadn’t done since being discharged from the military.

HGP Resume workshop, early Spring 2017

For me, the organic meal the farm provides on workdays, as well as it being a 5 hour workday was perfect for the homeless being introduced to an alternative to the wild lifestyle they are used to. The project also has the addition of a social worker for each of its trainees, who help the fledgling employees navigate a world that probably moved past them in the years on the street, and can be quite intimidating.

I truly wish with every fiber of my being that the farm could help more of the homeless and disenfranchised people in Santa Cruz that truly need and desire help. Right now the project only has room for 17 trainees, and if these lucky few approach life wanting sobriety as well as a job, their chances of success are much higher.

The Homeless Garden Project is a society, on a miniature scale, that genuinely cares about

Standing ovation for Shannon

you and wants you to succeed. It also, in my opinion, surpasses probation and court mandated programs in actually helping people experiencing homelessness achieve a fruitful life.

Two of the most concrete goals I have achieved are a commitment to sobriety and a relation with the Veterans Resource Center that has proven very beneficial in terms of housing and transportation.

HGP has helped me so much and I hope it can continue to help the people of Santa Cruz for many years to come. –Shannon McGurk




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Digging Deeper into “Cultivating Community:” Our Community Education & Volunteer Program

One goal of our community education and volunteer programs is to create the Inclusion in our vision statement: We envision a thriving and inclusive community, workforce and local food system.

A recent study performed by UCSC researchers, Heather E. Bullock, Shirley V. Truong, and Lina Chhun was published in the Journal of Poverty.  You can read Combatting Social Exclusion: “Safe Space” and the Dynamics of Inclusion at a Homeless Farming Site here. We’re so grateful for our partnership with researchers at UCSC for all they teach us. Below is a very brief summary of and excerpts from their in-depth, peer-reviewed study.

A growing body of research examines how marginalized groups construct “safe spaces.” By providing “breathing room,” these “recuperative spaces” allow marginalized groups to counter dominant stereotypes and “to grow roots, develop, flourish, engage, critique, and just relax with similarly situated others” (Weis & Fine, 2000, p. 1).

Among people who are low income and/or unhoused, class-based stigma and the material deprivation of economic hardship may create unique challenges to the formation of “safe spaces.” Negative stereotypes about poverty limit opportunity and fuel anti-homeless attitudes among the nonpoor; these same stereotypes may also contribute to social distancing among people who are similarly situated, making the formation of social alliances especially challenging among people who are homeless.

Among informants, the farm provided more than economic resources and access to social services; it provided a safe, alternative community that affirmed self-worth and dignity. Descriptions of the farm contrasted sharply with the discrimination and harassment that were daily occurrences in other public spaces.

Ultimately, acceptance and space to be oneself contributed to self-growth, “Everybody was so extremely kind to me … I had the freedom to be who I was, and … that freedom … helped me to grow, and helped me to be who I am, and appreciate who I am” (Dan).

Denise explained it this way, “A lot of friendship … it’s rewarding working here. I go home and I feel good, like, I’ve done something good.”

Previous studies find that “safe spaces” provide a respite from stereo-typing and prejudice (Cooper, 2012; Hall & Fine, 2005; Weis & Fine, 2000) and the farm was no exception, providing a place for personal development as well as positive intra- and inter-class interactions.

Institutional practices helped build these bridges. Communal free hot lunch was served daily for anyone who worked, volunteered, or simply stopped by the farm, creating a space for unstructured socializing.

Moreover, an extensive volunteer program fostered interactions between trainees and people who are housed, including frequent group visits from school children, adults with developmental disabilities, senior citizens, and college student interns. In highly segregated communities, such as the region in which this study was conducted, opportunities for interactions across diverse socioeconomic and racial groups such as this are infrequent. In this respect, the farm stood out.

Volunteers, some who stay with the program long-term, work in partnership with trainees on planting and harvesting and unlike off-farm interactions, trainees, with their greater farming experience, were the “experts” rather than “subordinates.” Bill’s comments capture this dynamic:

Everyone’s always passing through, like all the school field trips … wanting to know this and know that … having people walk through and ask you, “oh, what’s this?” … and actually being able to answer it here and there … makes me feel like, “Oh you probably think I’m bigger up on this chain than I am.”

Such interactions not only undermined classist stereotypes of people who are unhoused as lacking intelligence and competence, they also provided much needed opportunities for positive interclass contact. Shared super-ordinate goals, such as the type of teamwork done at the farm, and equalized status (even if temporarily), are important conditions to improving inter-group relations (Pettigrew, Tropp, Wagner, & Christ, 2011). …the farm served as a potential site for improving anti-homeless attitudes among individuals who are more privileged and housed. For our respondents, these interactions provided a “break” from classist devaluation and a “safe” context in which to interact with people who are housed.

A strong sense of responsibility for each other and shared safety was also essential to making the farm a “safe space.” With hate crimes and other forms of violence against people who are homeless on the rise nationally and strict local ordinances against camping and public sleeping (Bancroft, 2012; NCH, 2014; NLCHP, 2011), respondents were keenly aware of the need to keep each other and the farm “safe.”

–Heather Bullock and Shirley Truong; © 2016 Taylor & Francis, Journal of Poverty

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