I interviewed Danny at HGP’s Natural Bridges Farm last summer. Danny welcomed me to the Farm and explained his work crew and their role on the Farm. His crew prepares and cares for vegetable beds and the animals. As we painted row markers and sifted compost together we talked. After work hours we continued our conversation under a giant pine tree. I felt like I belonged as we conversed and created this interview. Sifting compost with Danny was the best thing to happen to me in awhile!
Below are some excerpts from our conversation followed by an update from Danny written in January 2013.
–Darcy Townsend, HGP volunteer
What happened to you in becoming homeless?
I am the only one of my siblings to graduate high school, despite my father being an eighth grade teacher. My siblings turned to crime and ended up in the justice system. I am from a physically, mentally/emotionally, and sexually abusive family My grandma’s sense of discipline made sense. You knew why you were being punished. She taught me to hold myself accountable for what I do.
What is your experience being homeless like?
There is little dignity in homelessness. Physically it is HARD to maintain health. There is a lack of routine with bathing and meds. Warmth is a big factor for me in the morning. I maintain a healthy diet, but my weight is down anyway. I feel huge anxiety in not knowing a safe warm bed or sleeping bag… fearing being run off.
Living outside or at the Loft is hugely depressing, being around others without hope is, it takes the inspiration away, right out from under you. I practice yoga for spiritual and physical health. I pray for strength to bring joy and love into my life and the people around me as best I can in difficult conditions.
What does it take to live, survive and to move out of homelessness?
Selflessness, patience, humility. Hope. I’m always with my creator, Mother Earth. Sharing with each other about our experiences…knowing you’re not alone, even though you’re always alone. There is a lack of support and understanding from the broad community. Support IS this farm. It’s a chance to work my way out of this homeless situation.
What message do you have for mainstream society about the reality of homeless experience?
All homeless people get lumped together. Reality is there are ALL kinds. People who are helping each other, criminals, and mentally ill people.
Since joining the HGP, what’s been your greatest learning and growing opportunity?
Being accepted by the program because of who I am and being encouraged to be who I am. HGP welcomes me. HGP allows people to make mistakes and still continue to participate. Because of that support and love I’m proud to say I’m homeless and part of HGP.
Where are you headed? Today, this year, in life?
I don’t know. Not being homeless, being an asset to society and not making it worse. Getting a second job or another job. Secure housing so I can be productive. Recently I became eligible to be an In Home Health Services provider.
How will you get there?
Maintain this job and my health. Advocate for the homeless situation. Put myself out there by speaking at City Council meetings, doing this interview. Hope the HGP will lead me to find housing. The farm is a solid foundation, a hand up. HGP doesn’t have solutions. It’s a chance of hope to get out of homeless situation. It can work on both ends. I’m a productive employee for the project and working through community has provided every one of us opportunities to go forward.
Describe what is meaningful about working with the HGP.
Meaningful? Laughs… Actually feeling like a productive human that day. At the end of the day, drenched in dry dirt, and feeling joy and CLEAN inside because of the joy shared with fellow homeless people…even though on the outside you are filthy dirty because of the work you just did!
What are your 2 biggest hopes and fears?
My biggest hope for everyone: Not being excluded for who you are.
My biggest fear for myself: I live it every day. I feel I’m treated like a criminal. I am discriminated against and excluded for being who I am.
My biggest fear for all of us: HGP may not get the support it needs. We are willing to work for whatever support is offered. Expanding the program for more trainees would be great.
Please share a personal life truth, belief, or idea.
I believe in healthy wholesome lifestyle that meets the need of every individual as an individual.
If you had a huge broadcast audience, what would you say to bring awareness and education around homelessness and what works – what is working for you?
COME OUT HERE! Come see us and what we do. Meet us, sit with us, eat with us. Let us inspire you….socially and spiritually be aware of human beings who are suffering through the anguish of being homeless.
Danny’s update: January 2013.
Since the time this interview was done, I’ve had two pet-sitting jobs. I also had a caregiving job that didn’t work out. With support from and continued work at the HGP, I was able to stay on my feet and find another caregiving job. This caretaking job helped me to secure affordable housing. I now have safe, warm, secure and wholesome housing. The security afforded me by this housing will help me improve my involvement with HGP and to maintain and improve my physical and mental health. Lack of warmth and security is a very big obstacle to achieving health for anyone who finds themselves in a hopeless and homeless situation.