I was a survivor and now I’m living

Laurie Williams sharing her story with a class at UCSC

I have been a trainee at the Homeless Garden Project’s Natural Bridges Farm for nearly
a year, and what a wondrous year it has been. The wisdom, knowledge, compassion
and support, the camaraderie and bonding, as well as understanding and patience that
have been showered upon me is without measure, appreciated, and surprisingly now

It was not always so. For many years I survived the unstable homeless life of an addict;
couch surfing, living in motels, staying up for days on end running myself ragged, and
until just recently I’ve been camping, adding to my list of illegal activities. I am pleased
and grateful to say that all of that is behind me now. I am now living in a 1-bedroom
apartment with my partner, David, (who is also a trainee at HGP). We are enjoying the
responsibilities of paying rent, bills, and dealing with other domestic issues. It may not
sound like a big deal but when you haven’t done these “normal” things they seem very
important especially knowing I’m only one step away from homelessness. I’m determined
to make that one step away two steps then three steps and so on… I won’t go backward. I
have worked too hard, been blessed too much, and am just plain too old and tired to allow
my good fortune to slip away.

Simply surviving had become a coping mechanism for me at the very young age of 12. I
was heartbroken and devastated by an abuse that continued throughout my teenage years.

Although I was alive and breathing I was merely existing, not living. I think of all the
special little moments I missed afraid to explore life in a mode of numbness induced by
drugs. That ain’t living folks!

Being hired as a trainee at HGP has greatly enhanced my life. My self-esteem and self-
confidence are boosted and I am reminded of who I am, who I want to become, and what
I want to accomplish. Many positive people, experiences, and possibilities have crossed
my path, opening the door for many new possibilities. Even though I’ve made countless
poor choices, and wasted a lot of precious time, there was always an inner part of me that
survived the turmoil and wanted more out life than I was receiving. I’m getting that now.

I’ve seen many lives blessed by the magic of the farm. It is a special place for growth,
healing and strengthening. I’m more than grateful for the year I’ve been there. At
first it was a rocky transition from homeless street life. Even before I found housing,
adjusting to having a job was a major change in my life. I needed to become accountable,
dependable, responsible and a team player. I also gained knowledge and the desire
to learn more about all phases of sustainable organic farming, including harvesting,
production and sales.

There has been real value in learning and expanding my horizons through the training and
hands-on physical work. What I value most are the people I’ve met and worked with. It’s
rare for me to allow people to get close, to relate to them on any real or deep meaningful
level. On the street I kept others at a distance and only used them as a means to an end.
Now, I truly care for my fellow trainees and the staff at Natural Bridges Farm. I connect with each person on some level, and I’ve built bonds I won’t ever forget.

It is safe at the farm. Every Tuesday morning we, the staff and trainees, gather in
our ‘Circle’ meeting where personal and work related issues can be discussed. This time
together is often very intimate and emotional and it is one more tie that brings us together
in harmony. I can express compassion, concern(s) and other real emotions if I choose to. I
receive the same in return which astounds me. I’m still getting used to the genuine giving,
caring and encouragement.

Although I’ve been blessed with many positive changes, no longer being homeless is the
most significant change so far. Healing is important as well. Healing the body and spirit
can take shape in many ways. At the present time I’m dealing with health issues that need
addressing, it is very stressful. What better place than the beautiful and peaceful farm to
cope, nurture, and ease my mind so I can heal. Daily stretches to start our day, healthy,
organic veggies that we’ve planted and harvested, deliciously prepared daily lunches,
healthy environment and people, the space to get back in tune with nature and myself;
what a beautiful way to live.

As I continue to heal and grow, I think about my future and life after HGP. Furthering
my education is part of my plan, and working with those who come from a similar
background, and assisting them in their transition is very appealing to me. In whatever
capacity this may manifest itself, I want and need to give back to keep the flow of healing
and change happening in our community. I hope that whatever I can contribute will
enhance my life just as HGP has enhanced mine.

Written by,
Laurie M. Williams, HGP Trainee

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6 Responses to I was a survivor and now I’m living

  1. Alexis says:

    I am so touched by your story. You are a beauitful person and are now having a beauitful life. I am so happy for you that you found peace at the farm. and a chance to learn a new skill. Its sounds very much like where you where meant to be. May you experience only great joy in the simple things in life, I have faith that your journey will be one of appreciation of life and only going forward. Do not look back. You should be very proud of your sobriety, its the most important key to moving forward. i have 18 years sober and it was the turning point to a blessed and beauitful life. God Bless you!!! I hope to come to the farm to introduce myself and see the wonderful work you all do. You are very inspiring to others, I hope you will continue to share your story for others to learn from.

  2. Pingback: “A Beautiful Way to Live”: How One California Farm is Helping Individuals Experiencing Homelessness | National Transitional Jobs Network Forum

  3. I’ve just learned about the Homeless Garden Project from my friend GP, who sent me a link. I loved reading your story, and I feel so moved by what you wrote. I’m happy for you — I hope you keep growing, keep enjoying those small, challenging, miracles of paying bills, living with a partner, staying sober and clean, and contributing to your community. I hope you keep writing, too.

  4. Zariah says:

    As a young 16 year old I find you story reassuring and very touching. It makes me think how hard it really is to live in a sosity, that wants so much just for your living. And how so many tend to give up because they don’t know how to deal with it. Right now I don’t know how the grown up world works barley at all. But i do know how the world looks at homeless people with my experience around them and others.
    Even though it maybe true for the moment in someones life that their moochers and don’t give a darn. I’ve always tire explaining to people that there our homeless that care, even when they are or once were on drugs or other unhealthy habitats. Because theirs that somewhere that they had the reason behind the story.
    I know because once I found the reality of the world I really wished i never was or that I could live of the land like back in the cave man times. the problem was I didn’t know how or I want my family to have any more problems. I guess that you just got to find a way to be truly happy even if it’s a struggle at first when getting us to things.
    So Thank you for reassuring me that you guys do care, and keep it up because you guys our awesome I know you can do it. If you were brave enough to actually try the being homeless then I know that you can scrap the sky at Living your best in this crazy confusing sosity.


  5. LF says:

    That was so beautiful to read, blessings to you!

  6. Tonia says:

    Your story is truly touching. You said “Simply surviving had become a coping mechanism for me at the very young age of 12. I was heartbroken and devastated by an abuse that continued throughout my teenage years.Although I was alive and breathing I was merely existing, not living. I think of all the special little moments I missed afraid to explore life in a mode of numbness induced by drugs. That ain’t living folks!”

    I am a survivor of domestic, physical, and mental abuse, I have been heartbroken and have been “existing, not living.” I did not numb myself out by drugs, but by isolation from society. I am currently living in a hotel, working as a front desk clerk trying to integrate back into society. I am very interested in the garden project and would like more information about it. It sounds like such a great project to help people learn to build trust and to integrate into society, to take a step up. Please send me more information to tonia120576@gmail.com, I am interested in learning more about grants to start a project like this in my area.

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