I never guessed that when I grew up, I would actually experience homelessness.
I was the picture of success at a young age, having started working at 15 and loving it. I went into banking at 19 and by 25 years old, I was a top-performing Store Manager in a Wells Fargo branch in San Jose. And then, completely shocking everyone, I quit banking and went back to college, at a local J.C. I also started bartending one night a week. But that quickly became 3 nights and then 5. And then, just as quickly, I had given up on school because really, I loved to work. And now, I loved my new job, bartending.
And then, a few years later, I began my downward spiral that would take everything away from me: again and again and again. Utter insanity. Addiction had gotten ahold of me and quite frankly, I was blindsided. Raised by a single mother with a father who was active in his addiction, I knew what that looked like and I wanted no part of it. I had stayed away from drugs and even alcohol, when I was younger for that very reason.
I thought I was smarter. I thought I was stronger. But when you get paid to drink every night with your customers, in fact you’re encouraged to…it becomes a lifestyle and well, a couple years later you realize you haven’t gone a night without drinking for a looong time. And you’re hooked…
And the story only gets darker from here…once booze had me I found I had less and less boundaries for other things. Darker things. Hard drugs. And then jail.
So…that brings us to the present.
Having humbled myself to accept the fact that I needed to start my life completely over, I now needed the tools to do it. Enter Homeless Garden Project. When you’re new in recovery, starting to put your life together again, healing from years of bad choices and their repercussions, you’re kind of fragile. And even though I know that deep down I’m still that strong, talented, driven girl that I was…right now I still kinda need someone to hold my hand once in a while. And, whether it’s just a refresher course on resume writing and cover letters, or harvesting dahlias and getting orders ready for our CSA members, every day I’m working in situations that help me feel more empowered, more confident.
And I’ve never before in my life felt like a part of something so big, so awesome. This is the first time I’ve ever felt like a part of my community. Working alongside my fellow trainees and the numerous volunteers, I’m constantly reminded of how similar and yet how different we all are. Because we all share the common goal of trying to better our situations; getting housing and getting permanent jobs. And in this we have found safety here at HGP.
We have found another family, often times better than our own blood families, to accept us and to help us. And that family also includes our leaders and supervisors at HGP. Every one of them has always treated me with the utmost respect and encouragement. They have supported me unconditionally, and most importantly – by giving us the safe place to be vulnerable and broken – they have allowed us to heal and recover; to sprout and to grow.
They give us hope in so many things, but most importantly, in our fellow man: because it’s crucial for people to realize that there are others out there who DO care, who DO sympathize, TRY to empathize, and who ARE willing to support us all the way thru to the solution. Everyone who has ended up homeless got there for different reasons that are as unique as a fingerprint. But the thing that is the same for all of them is the solution. The solution to homelessness is PEOPLE. People caring and engaging with one another to find the individual solutions for each person. And I believe that’s what HGP role models. I believe in them because they believe in me. And I will always be grateful.
Stacy shared her experience at the Homeless Garden Project’s Honorary Committee Kick-off Event at Soif Restaurant on January 27, 2019. As Homeless Garden Project prepares to build our permanent site on Pogonip, City of Santa Cruz parkland, we celebrated the amazing community leaders who have stepped up to support our success. We were so grateful to Stacy for speaking and joining us on the tour of our future site, Pogonip Farm.