Sometimes I feel like the more I learn the less I can put into words. In this case, I worry that my words will not accurately capture all that is good and true about the Homeless Garden Project - an organization that holds a very special place in my heart. So I will only say this: there is a particular type of magic built into lived experience – the moments you share with those involved
that can somehow never be conveyed to others. This type of magic is abundantly present at HGP.
As a social work intern, I am constantly amazed by the immense healing that happens when you have a place to be and be cared for without judgement. In my time here, I have seen so much good come from such a simple idea. As I work to encourage this healing, I sometimes feel drained, frustrated by my inability to rid the world of all its social problems and to make all our trainees’ struggles disappear. Other times I burst with pride and excitement when witnessing people overcome their struggles on their own. In all of these moments, the beautiful, the frustrating, the joyful, I begin to fully understand the magic of this place. You see, HGP is not just a training program. The trainees are not the only ones who’s lives are touched by the connection to the seeds and soil of the farm and the restlessly productive essential oil smell of the workshop. HGP affects the lives of all who pass through it, including myself.
I spent my first summer at HGP, before becoming a social work intern, with my hands in the soil. Now almost two years later, I am looking up at graduate school and leaving Santa Cruz, taking the time to reflect on everything I have learned. I learned all about social work – even deciding to abandon my previous plan to pursue a graduate degree in psychology (my undergraduate area of study) to pursue a masters of social work instead. I learned how to listen, how to be supportive without saying a single word, and how to use the methods of motivational interviewing and positive psychology. For myself, I learned how to rely on my peers for support, and how to ask for help.
But beyond the practical, a funny thing happens. I lose all ability to articulate my experience apart from saying “you had to be there.” Maybe in time I will look back and be better able to explain the magic of this place and its impact on me, but for now all I can say is that the Homeless Garden Project has changed the way I see the world, its living things, and myself. It, and all the people who have passed through it as I have, have forever left an imprint on my heart.
To those considering joining the ranks of the tireless, selflessly passionate people fighting to make HGP all that it can be, I ask, what are you waiting for? I may not be able to perfectly articulate everything this place has to offer, but I can say that it is worth experiencing. I hope you think so too.