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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Catalyst for Change

April (on right) with dinner guests, Meredith and Vivian

Hello and welcome to our farm and garden. My name is April Wilson and I am blessed and honored to be here. I am a trainee here at Homeless Garden Project. I’ll begin with a testimony about myself and what gravitated me to this ever-giving garden.

I’m a local—born and raised here. I’m 35 years old and single. I was born into a very physically abusive family, with abuse of me as well as between my parents, who were addicted to drugs and alcohol. Despite the differences my parents had with each other, I know my parents loved me, they just didn’t know how ….

I was given a baby brother, Erik, who I love so much. I protected him and my mom with my life from the abuse within the walls of our home. I thought it was my responsibility. Years later, my parents separated. I began to escape into substance abuse. My substance abuse made me no different than them. Soon after their separation, I got a call that my Dad died.

So I found myself, imagine if you would, I was 13 years old, in 7th grade, attending New Brighton Middle School. I already had an alcohol problem, was sexually active, had been raped, beaten and abused. I was an angry, lost soul. I gave up school because I couldn’t maintain proper sleep through the long nights of my parents’ arguing and fighting and my own drinking and running away.

April and HGP Guest, Susan, at our October Sustain Supper

At the age of 13, I got into a relationship that I thought would give me something I had lost, and save me. It lasted for 11 horrific years of control and abuse. I lived in the shadow of a man who only cared for drugs and control. When I was 24 years old, I realized that I needed to get out of this relationship before he killed me. It took me a year; I had to plan my escape to save my life. Another relationship, also full of challenge, life lessons and heartbreak helped me make my new start. He is now my best friend.

During this relationship, I was in and out of incarceration like a revolving door. My brother was the only successful one in our family with a business of his own, though he too struggled with addictions. Looking back now, I think of myself as successful also, through this journey I am on.

Fast forward to the last 5 years. I was finally free from the legal system and on my way to building a positive future. My name came up on the housing list and I was excited to see what it would be like to live a normal life. I got an amazing place in Watsonville close to my mom.

I was caring for her, doing well, loving my life when on September 5, 2013, my life was changed forever; I got a call that my mom was dead. I discovered that my mom was murdered, and robbed of her methadone and that no one would be held accountable. It was the saddest day of my life. My mother was my world and now she is my angel. I love her and miss her very much.

The loss of my mother rippled through my life and I lost my housing. I wound up homeless

Charlie, our emcee, and April

in a car given to me, living with my service dog, Piggy Brown. He is my road dog, and the love of my life, he’s my reason to keep going forward, my happy face puppy, my inspiration.

Six months ago, I made a decision to change my life. I got clean and sober after 22 years of substance abuse. I quit without thinking twice. One month into sobriety, I attended Project Homeless Connect. As I was leaving, I caught a glimpse of Homeless Garden Project’s table and asked the representatives, Mike and Laurie, “What are you offering?” They said, “Transitional employment—just put your name down and show up.”

I am so grateful I did. This place is amazing, the people are wonderful and I am blessed. Caring people like all of you here tonight are the catalyst of change. Working here on this farm, I find I learn new things about myself, and my surroundings and they are life-changing. I feel like Maya Angelou said it best when she said, “People will forget what you said, they will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.”

I have met so many wonderful and amazing people in the short time I’ve been here. I’ve shared and learned and grown so much that I now feel the future is endless. This is all new to me. I really believe I matter and am important. It’s taken a long time for me to come to terms with my past. I believe whole-heartedly that the Project works.

Many of you come and you hear our testimonies—how through the garden it is possible for us to develop solid connections from the wonderful and understanding staff to all the new interns, fractal after fractal, from the plants, to the flowers, to the people and the soil we are all connected. Like a family. This is my family.

Thank you to our volunteers! I also want to give all of you a big thank you for being here! None of this would be possible without you.

–April Wilson wrote and presented this talk at Homeless Garden Project’s Autumn Sustain Supper on October 22, 2016.

You can help! April has a housing voucher and is looking for a landlord to rent to her. She needs to use the voucher by November 19. Please help her use this opportunity to get into housing–share this message. If you have information about housing or are a landlord, please contact




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2015 Annual Report: Donors

2015 Annual Report: Donors

A  Huge, Warm Thank You to All of Our Many Generous Donors in 2015. Without You, Our Garden, and Our Trainees Couldn’t Grow!

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

Quentin Hancock      Newman’s Own Foundation        Michael Zwerling, KSCO Radio

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

Anonymous     Helen and Will Webster Foundation     Monterey Peninsula Foundation

Joanna Miller     Specialty Foods Foundation        George L. Shields Foundation, Inc.

New Leaf Community Markets

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

Patrick Teverbaugh       San Francisco Foundation

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

Clif Bar Family Foundation       Paul Lee       Volunteer Center of Santa Cruz

The Joshua Alper-Marines Foundation     Joe Mingione       Sally Shepherd

City of Santa Cruz       Scott & Jasmine Roseman      Michelle Gates

Sower of the Garden ($1000-$2499)

Martha & Patrick Dexter       Benevity Community Impact Fund

Allison & Douglas Garcia       Rosemary & Simon Hayward       John Hester

Phil Kramer    Kelli Greene, Plantronics Inc.     Silicon Valley Community Foundation

Scott & Julie Starling       Joan Cummings

Dwayne & Linda Downing       Matt & Peg Guerrieri

Peter & Jeanette Katzlberger       Sangha Shantivanam       Joan Osborne

John & Jerri Walton       John Allured       Mary Edmund       Bonnie Keet

Elizabeth Burton       Covenant Presbyterian Church       Charlie Hong Kong

Ralph Alpert       Beahm Design (Brain Beahm)       Dawn Coppin

Freedom Lions Club       Barbara & Stephen Jackel       Tom Lehrer       Brian O’Toole

Sigma Alpha Chapter Omega Nu       George Ow       Patagonia Outlet (Jenny Garcia)

Henry & Wilma Plummer       Eta Somekh Family Foundation

Leigh Anne Starling       Walker Survivor Fund        Vera & Elliot Aronson

Robin & James Boyle       Bonnie Brunet      Matt Reimert     Joan Springhetti

Woutje Swets

Supporter of the Garden ($500-$999)

Brett Fredericks       Matthew Farrell       Stephanie Pache     Rowland & Pat Rebele

Peter & Patricia Biocini       Carolyn Dille & Dick Walvis       Mark Fernquest

Santa Cruz Rotary Foundation      Frank & Susan Ganzhorn       Becky & Jim Lang

Jim Howes     William L. Price Charitable Foundation    Ginny Aragon      Teresa Ronsse

Patrice Boyle       Anna Bartolini       Patrick Teverbaugh      Angelina McClellan

Linda & Walt Brown      Yvonne & Doug Omer       Mary Strunk      Janice Cockren

Linda & Ron Weaver       Nancy Carmichael       Gerald & Bonnie Christensen

Pamela E Davis       Jane Flury       G.P. Shulz Donor-Advised Fund

Jacobs Farm-Del Cabo Inc.      Lakeside Organic Gardens (JoanneVal Leoffler & Doug

Hellinger)        Analicia Lesnowicz       Ellen Martin       Michael & Carmela McDonald

Sheila Moser        Nordic Naturals        Aura Oslapas & Bob Arko       Perforce Foundation

Presbyterian Church of Los Gatos       Grace Sanchez & Bush Thomas

Santa Cruz Community Credit Union       Santa Cruz County Bank      Claudio Schnier

Max Turri & Eabry Kim       Alice Waters       Dan Blunk       Richard Coffey

Nathaniel Deutsch        Josephine Fleming       Robert Goff & Eleanor Littman

David Kiferbaum      Sebastian Little       Janis O’Driscoll       Carol & Tom Smith

William L & Carol Wass

Cultivator of Community ($250-$499)

County of Santa Cruz       Daniel Mountjoy        Margaret Collins

Joan Ganzhorn       Meris Walton       Karen Lambert

Nonprofits Insurance Alliance of Santa Cruz      Bel Air Presbyterian Church

Marilyn Robertson       Judy Ziegler      Elizabeth Clifton      Henry Martin      Amelia Coplan

Natures Alley       Anonymous       Bonnie & Fred Rosen       Dara Herrick

Suzanne MacLean       Grace Voss      Joshua Drews       Jesse D & Rendler Bregman

Jerry & Sylvia Deck       Julie Edwards       Denise Holbert       Chris Hogeland

Eva Strnad & Sherman Doug       Bank of America United Way

United Way of Santa Cruz County       SunOpta/Tradin Organics

Jonathan & Susan Wittwer       James Brown      Eventbrite       Nancy Graham

Laura & Keith Howard        Johnny’s Selected Seeds      Christopher Jones

Lesley Lathrop      Gail Michaelis-Ow & George Ow Jr.      Betty & Peter Michelozzi

Irene Osterbrock      Charlene & Leo Ott      Presbytery of San Jose (Joey Lee)

Edward Hearn & Linda Arnold       Ken Leinbach      Srina Lynne

Resnick Family Foundation      Linda Graham       Ryan Althaus      Andrew Baraylan

Brian & Anita Beahm       Anne Marie & Carl Christensen      Earl’s Organic Produce

Susan Levit  & Robert Fair       Anne & Gavin Curtis       Abbie & Tim Miller

Milton Meyer Foundation       NEC Laboratories America Inc.       Mark Pollock &

Janet Primack       Roger & Dory Rindge       Kathy & Michael Sherman

Diane Simpson        Stocker Family Fund       The Ruth M. McGeeFamily Trust

Edgar Thrift       Maria Torres & Torres Jr.       Rachel Wedeen       Joanne Yablonsky

Gary Bahena       Katherine Beiers       Sally Brenton       Andrew Coe

Lynne & Eric Cooper       Linda & Gary Covell       Analicia & Dexter Cube

John Faulkner       Nathaniel Gloekler & Lisa Lincoln       Sarah Glommen

Vickie Hinkley      Janet Hutcheson      Keith & Florence Lesar      Nancy MacLean

Matthew Miller & Janet Kaseda       Pamela & Al Patrick       Felicia Rice

Carolyn & Darryl Rudolph       Kathy Runyon      Caitlin Sadowski & Ian Pye

Stanislava Stancheva      Kim Thomas       Lise Weir      Ann Zweig

Friend of the Garden ($100-$249)

Susana Traber       Ana Bacaylan       CCOF Inc.       Emily Lee Duffus       Edna Elkin

Sheryl Pounds       Kathy Chetkovich       Minerva Mendoza       John Gamman

Linda Larkin       Cali West Hospitality Service       Howard & Lisa Charnock

Michelle Cliff       Community Foundation of Santa Cruz      Anthony Crane

Donovan Fong       Foster Gamble      Nancy Hiestand      Yvonne Hopkins

Martha Jordan & Eli Silver       Kaiser Permanente       Joyce Nordquist

Lawrence and Mary Osborne       Michael & Sarah Ray

Jacob Sidman & Kris Sidman-Gale       Karen Skemp       Catherine Steele

University of California, Davis       Richard Russell & Anne Verrow

Wonderful Giving (Dominga Medina)      Robert Allen      John Laird      Eric Laumann

Nitzan Loewenberg       John Miller      Mark Miller      Shirley Garber Schneider

Martha Vickers       Janet Volpe       Nanlouise Wolfe       IBM Employee Services Center

Darlene Seligman        Rachel Wedeen      Mark & Wendi Kramer-Pugh

Marcia & Robert Rider      Kevin Case       Esther Barbour & Anthony Crane Barbour

Thomas Beggs & Lilian Wenzel Beggs      Capitola Village Business      Mark Chetkovich

Krista & Scott Colquitt       Penny Ellis       The Garden Company       Jessica Lacy

Edmond Miga        Priscilla & Sidney Peters       Peter & Celia Scott       Maydeen Stout

Terre & Charles Thomas       Denise & Dave Ward       Ed Bacher       Jaime Garfield

Museum of Art & History       St. Andrew Presyterian Church       Mardi Brick

Diana Hayden        Rachael Spencer & Kevin Rooney       Juleanne Thiebaut      Susan Algert

Kelly Damewood       Olga De Santa Anna      David Dennis

Edible Monterey Bay       Ellis Forbes      Sharon Flynn      Monica Karst

Deborah Luhrman      Margaret McCue      Lisa Rose      Donald & Diana Rothman

Gail Williamson      Aaron Lazenoy      Erin Alder    Ilene Dick

Linda Wilshusen & R. Rock Pfotenhauer        Jane Freedman    Holly Bailey

Anonymous      Jesse Burgess      Janet Moyer      Ron Swenson       Elisa Breton

Meg Campbell      Robert McKim       Ann-Marie & Groner Mitruff

Gary & Marilyn Patton       Eliane Roe     Shmuel Thaler      Todd Anderson

Yong Bai      Camille Ball       Mary Ellen Barr       Bay Federal Credit Union

Julie & Peter Beckmann      Annie Benagorn      Michael Bornn      Margaret Boyes

Glenn Brown        Jeff Brittan       Harold Brockman       John Brown

Vivian & Michael Brown      Edmund Burke      Cafe Cruz      David & Mary Jane Cope

John & Susan Cortis      Connie Croker       Allice De Armond       Joseph & Sonia Dehazes

Lucille Des Jardins       Roberta Dunton      Christine Louise & Ross Evans

Bonnie Faraola      Lynne & William Giles      Becky Gomoll      Lynn Gordon

Laura & Marc Grossman       Analise Hanneman       Rosalind & Harold Hastings

Joan & David Hentges        Linda Hogan        Sam Huynh & Gabrielle Korte

Mary Ingraham       Inroads Christian Church       Linda Kahler      Pamela Kearry

Steven Keller       John Kersey       Robert & Michele Kibrick

Elaine Kihara & David Sweet      Wendy King       William Leland

Erik & Dolores Lenander       Meryl Lewin       Kay & Siegfrid Magenheim      Annette March

Gwendolyn & John Marcum       Joanne Matuzas       Charles & Susan McNiesh

Nicholas Meter & Elizabeth Good Meier      Nick Meltzer      Nada Miljkovic

Marlene & Houlinsn Mirassou      Michael Morton      Matthew Nathanson      Phyllis Norris

Samantha Olden       Darrell Palmer        Dave Pearl (Pearl Construction)      Carole Pherson

Patricia Pimentel       C. Potter      Thankamma Puthiaparampil      Karleen Quick

Ann Ramer      Mathilde Rand      Craig Reinarman       Ristorante Avanti       Janine Roeth

Dorothy Ruby       D.Lynn & William Scally       Nikki Silva & Charles Prentiss Silva

David & Mary South       Amy Stewart      Thomas Sutfin & Ann Baier Sutfin

Dee Tannenbaum      Ann Timm      Yolanda Walton      Michael & Susan Warren

Katherine & Barry Welch       Lloyd & Bonnie Williams       Anonymous

Marianne Beckwith       Michael Bolte       Susan & Robert Bosso      Thomas & Rita Bottoms

Judy Colcough       David Coleman        Tim Cope       Christine & Chris De Vries

Andrea Fazel       Marty Feldman       Theodore & Lynette George        Kimberly Hallinan

Dan Hammer       E.R. Hogness       Suzy Hunt      Deborah Johnson       Susan Kerr

Alisa Klaus        Christian Kocher       Rachel Levin       Daniella Magnano

Andrew Meisel      Ellen Primack & Eric Schmidt Primack       Kathleen Roberts

Tom Shepherd      Joyce Shimizu       Lori Siegmund       Nirvikar Singh       Eric Strader

Jenni & Nathan Ward       Mary Wieland & Ronnie Lipschutz Wieland

Farmer in Training ($100 dollars or less)

Ellie Whisner      Max Prescott       Antoinette & Bennett Coplan

Ruth & Nick Royal      Anonymous      Sabrina Eastwood      Betty Gangware

Daryl Gerwin      Martha Macambridge      Carol Maynard      Morgan Stanley

Rhonda Reed-Schlosser     Jan & Edwin Dexter     Mark Fredisdorf      Andrea Herrick

Uma & Vish Miller       California Marine Sanctuary       Kathleen & Dana Jones

Julia Patton      Christina Waters       Melissa Guajardo

Eddy Howard      Steve Lustgarden      Katie Milazzo       Kris Mitchell

Sally Noorany      Loren Reynolds      Linda Rosewood      Mattew Skaarup

Karl von Ahnen      Adrian Nunez     Naomi & Asher Brauner

Norman Nelson      Angela Flem      Brooks Fisher

Farol Vickers & Mike Henderson      Andrew Hippert      Adrian Jubb

Gary Vollema      Froukje Brouwer      Joanne Chamberlin      Ann Freitas

Lois & Walter Goldfrank     Phillip Gomez     Ryan Hasanna       Marcia Kaplan-Mann

Marty Ackerman      Cindy & Glen Adams      Mark Alexander    John & Jennifer Anderson

Christine & Bradley Asmus     Nibby & Mark Bartle      Carolina Bayne     Donald Biek

Jane Blackman      Peter Bodenheimer      Jack Bowers      Andy Carman

Brian & Kathleen Cayton     Tracy Jiles & Jon Cole

Rebecca Malcolm & Howard Cole      Jack Westenhouse & Judith Crick

James & Joyce Crowley     Rose Cutrer     Patricia Harmon & Ben Damron

Michael Didonato     Ann & John Dizikes     Richard & Diane Doubrava

J. David & Jo Anne Duncan     Edward & Janas Durkee     Beth Dyer

Steve Wheeler & Jane Eabry     James & Paula Faris     Jan & Jerry Finney

Hasanna & Ryan Fletcher      Marianna & James Franks      Susan & Alan Goldstein

Penny Hanna     Joan & Patrick Henry      Christine Hirsch      Margaret Horton

Nikki Howe     Christine & John Irving      Journeyworks Publishing    Wumby Kamiya

Vern & Dotters Deb Katz      Donald & Barbara Keeler

Susan Ohanesian & David Krivin      Pamela & Charles Landram

Paul Durkee & Patty Lawton      Golden & Beth Love      Baruch Lowenberg

Karen Lynch     Glenn Gerdt & Nancy Lyons      Kathryn Metz     Leann Meyer

Sonya Stock & Jeff Newlyn      Jesse & Christine Nickell     Susan Paradise

Dianne & Stephen Pereira      Denise Perston     Chris Peters

Celia & Julien Peterson-Brown     Bernadette Ramer     Gretchen Regenhardt

Alfred J & Maureen Richard     Carolyn Roberts    Rossi’s Body Shop & Towing

Diann Russell     Mario Fukuda & Lori Singleterry     Lee Slaff

Bertine & Ken Slosberg      Therese Smith      Claire Sommargren     Nancy Thomas

James Kaplan & Laura Tucker        Richard Voss      Joan Ward

John & Sandra Warren       Maria Shea & Patricia Zamudio      Robert Balweg

Charles R. & Beverly S. Barnes      Len Beyea       Greg & Ching Brodsky

Andrew & Betsy Finfrock      Karen Groppi       Lulane Harrison      Sarah Herrman

Hilda Hodges M.D.      Geoffrey Hughes     Judith Marie & Kent Imai

Roberta Jaffe      Lisbeth Jensen      Pat Klein     Bill Leland     Rick Longinotti

Stacy Philpott      Bryan Sheperd      Matt Shimizu Jones      Roseann Simonell

Carol Tougas    Mary Williams     Mary Wingert    Cory Woodward

JustGive        Michael Levy       Deborah Madison       Martine Mahoudeau

Christina Pasetta       Todd Anderson       Charity Kenyon       Rick Carter

Alexandra Gregory       Nancy Billings       Joann & Marc Godoy

Susan & Donald Snyder       Abigail Best      Julie Boudreau       Bailey Clark

Mary James      Shigeko Okamoto      Dick & Marion Vittitow       Rebecca Adam

Abbey Asher       Mahala Carter       Mary & George Reynolds      Meg Vollema

Rebecca Zalona       Christine Chang       Monica Larenas       Kirsten Liske

Prima Salon        Sandra Silver       Wendy Strimling       Martha Orr

David & Mary Anne Kramer-Urner       Bob & Betty Imlay        Linda Wolbers

Nancy Bavis        Valerie Bengal       Kaya Brown       Eileen Butcher       R. Cambell

Bryan Campbell       Ruth Campbell        Lawrence & Arvilla Cline       Chris Creighton

Christine De Lapp       David & Nancy Demorest        Ann Marie Escudero

Regina Firpo-Triplett        Ellis Goldfrit (C. J. Gold Inc.)        Ellen Jane Hellen

Jannelee Lang       Margaret & Charles Larsen       Barbara Lathrop

Samantha Li           Justina Louie        Cecelia McNeil

Donna Miguelgorry        Sean Jirsa & Barbara Monaghan        Anandi Paganini

Genevieve Piraino        Deborah & Trowbridge Ross        Shirley Schiffrin

Robert & Kamehiro Stockwell         Margaret Zanzinger       Mike Arenson

Fred Bacher       Bob Clifford        Susan Crocker         Mary Epperson

Cliff & Sara Friedlander       Diane Grunes        Thomas Guerrieri       Patrick Helding

David Levy       Halimah Martin       Judy Monihan       Andrew Purchin        Albert Saul

Alan Smith & Gene Savat        Michelle Sheldon         Martha Shelton        Caryn Simon

Angie Smith        Debra Spector        Christine Weir        Deb Wolfe

Raven Playfaire         Divinitree Yoga Studios        Yeun Byun        Damara Ganley

Michelle Halls       Joyce Hathaway       Ofer Licht       Jennipher Lommen

Kathy Pearson        April Medina        Sheila Payne        Lisa Christensen       Jo Covone

Ruth Hunter       Bruce & Pina Kamolnick       Nancy & John Lingemann

Eloise Martindale        Robert & Penny Milam         Valerie Phipps

Jan & Margaret Ysselstein        Clint Biddle       Jessie Case      Nita Hertel

Amy Longinotti        Kelly Mercer       Robert Stayton         Jude Todd        Shirley L. Gordon

Lisa Hunter        Eleanor & Hans Rosenast        Stephanie Tucker + family

Elizabeth Borelli        Victoria May       Anonymous         Bob Keel

Jaime Andres-Larsen       Anthony Carney        Antoinette Hughes

Talia Lesser        Hannah Levy        Sally Walker        Rosa Wilson       Annie Bacher

Thomas Conlon        John Flem       Linda Marin        Andrew McKeon

Fat Wreck Chords        Anonymous        Bob Lapointe        Kristian Ghazal

Felicia Hinman       Bruce Block & Maria Caradonna        Ted Nichols

Antero Hot Spring Cabins LLC.         Susan Borders & David Cannon        Rivera Cook

Ernest & Dianne Fenn        Lucretia Hall         Amy & David Harrington

Elba & Joe Hernandez        Barbara Kersey        Anne Lober       Maggie & Alan McKay

Redtree Properties       Diane & Bob Schulman      Sherri Stockner

Angela & Julius Surkis        Helen Wallis         Karen & Michael Walters

IN-KIND Donations

A Tool Shed Equipment Rentals         Alexis Party Rental        Bagelry

Bonny Doon Vineyard        Burrell School Vineyards & Winery       Cafe Iveta

Coffeetopia     Devil’s Gulch Ranch       DG Langley Farms       Dirty Girl Produce

StellaEarthworksFarm Fuel Inc.        Felton Feed        Jean Flores       Marsha Frederick

Gayle’s Bakery & Rosticceria        Hobo Wine Company

Kenny Institute of Marine Sciences        Mary & David Jessen      Cynthia Jordan

Koppes Plants       La Onda Sauces       Laura Luddenberg       Martinelli’s & Co.

Kickin’ Chicken       Joanna Miller       Nob Hill Foods

Palace Art & Office Supply       Patagonia Outlet     Monica & Cooper Blake

Pielage PP&C Printmakers at the Tannery       Tony Purlell       Lorraine Randolph

Rangeland Wines        Irene Reti        Route 1 Farms

Sandbar Solar & Electric       Jagan Sankaranaraynan

The Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing        Santa Cruz Pedicab        Santa Cruz Symphony

SC Pedicab       Dee Chow      Sennecke Chow        Soquel Vineyards

Janette Sumano’s Bakery       Swinerton Builders        True Olive Connection

Uncie Ro’s     ViDA Juice

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All Things Are Born Anew

Four days ago, Darrie pulled me aside at work and gave me what felt like an impossibly hard task. I was to write my story of how I got here and how the program has benefited me, and share it with you tonight. I didn’t know where to begin. I didn’t know what to say. My story is one of unfathomable suffering. On the flipside, my experience here at the Homeless Garden Project is one of indescribable joy. How could I possibly present these two extremes in a safe and comfortable way, let alone in just five minutes? Fear gripped me as I attempted to grapple with my experiences and the immense power of words. Then, I thought about the Garden and the wondrous power it holds. Surely it can hold space for whatever I have to say. And in that space, the words began to flow.

Growing up, I was subjected to severe, long-term traumatization. It was brutal, horrific and grotesque. At eighteen, I was miraculously freed and proceeded to throw myself as hard as I possibly could into recovery work. I spent days at a time journaling, meditating, praying and seeking outside guidance. There were, however, very few people I felt I could trust. My post-traumatic stress made it extremely difficult to form lasting relationships and impossible to work a regular job. I was in a rocky financial situation and terrified of becoming homeless.

Standing ovation at our 7/30 Sustain Farm Supper when Kathleen gave this talk

When I arrived at the Homeless Garden Project eight months ago, I was shy, timid, and shut down. I couldn’t volunteer for more than an hour at a time without becoming overwhelmed and needing to stop. There was, however, a magic here that kept me coming back and in two months’ time, I was hired as a trainee. Immediately, I felt layer upon layer of fear and shame melt away. Organic farming, twenty hours a week, with safe and supportive people. Here was finally something that I could do. Not only was I struck by the beauty of my surroundings, but by the quality of the people who work here: Darrie, the Executive Director, in her quiet, ethereal wisdom; Lindsay, the Training and Education Specialist, in her extraordinary patience and compassion; Chris, the Farm Manager, in his gentleness and humility; Angie, the Retail Manager, in her sharp wit and skill; and Mike, the Production Lead, in his quirky, blunt humor and incredible passion for his plants.

At first, as a new trainee, I struggled, but with the everlasting support and guidance of these amazing people, I began to thrive. A new sense of direction and purpose flowed through my life and internal barriers that once seemed impenetrable gave way. For the first time in my life, I felt open, free and capable. In the loving space of the Homeless Garden, I have become free to express myself and grounded in my choices. I have found stable housing and am working to become a tutor, teaching math to underprivileged kids. The friendships I have made here and the intimacy of the bonds I have formed are indescribable. I have a sense of security and peace now, a foundation upon which I can firmly stand.

I am not, however, the only recipient of these miracles. As my dear friend and former trainee, Laurie Soderman, puts it, “The soil at the Garden oozes with love.” I am but one of countless individuals whose life has been monumentally transformed by the power of the Garden. Whole families have transitioned out of homelessness into stable, secure homes. Alcoholics and addicts have found the courage they needed to get sober and clean. People like myself, who came from the worst of the worst, have found safety, empowerment and self-worth.

The thing I love above all else about this project is that whether you are a volunteer, a staff person, a trainee or simply a friend, there is a place for you here. No matter what it is that you need, there is a sentience in this Garden that will call it forth and manifest it in your life. All it asks is that you be open to receive.

- Kathleen Groves, 19, Homeless Garden Project trainee

From a talk presented at our Sustain Farm Supper, July 30, 2016.  And here is Kathleen’s poem that inspired the name of this post:

The sweat pea stands
Wandering hands

Her twisting vine
Shields the bud
Yet to unwind

In the end
Her petals slip
Into the Earth’s
Tender kiss

In darkness shroud
The bud emerges
All things are born anew


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Everything I Need in a Job

On May 27, 2016, I was released from jail after a month of incarceration. I had only been in the car about two minutes when my case worker informed that the Homeless Garden Project (HGP) was going to give jobs to the first 20 people that showed up to their main office; my first inclination was “too much, too fast.” After a little reflection, I went to the office, and was number 13 on the list. Looking back, I consider myself most fortunate indeed.

Getting sober was an intense uphill battle for both me and my court-appointed team. In September of 2015, I was put in Janus, and after a week, my withdrawals were so bad I was sent to ICU at Dominican, then returned to Janus to finish the 28-day program. I then went into an SLE (sober living environment) and started trying to unlearn all the habits I’d formed in the 8 years of my life as an adult.

Addiction was not a problem for me until I was 19, and in the Marine Corps. I was raised all over the world in a very conservative Catholic, military family, and I’m the oldest of 14 children. I joined the Marines at 17, and transitioned from a very sheltered life to a very liberal one; and girls, cigarettes and alcohol became more prevalent. After my tenure in the Marine Corps, I tried briefly to live life normally, paying rent and working, but didn’t enjoy the responsibility after being the oldest of so many children, and being a Marine, so I ran away from all responsibility and became homeless. It felt good.

After 5 years of traveling and drinking, and using all manner of substances, I found myself under a bridge with my girlfriend. We had just done our first shot of heroin and were drinking cheap vodka when there was a huge mental “click” for us. We realized we were going to die if we didn’t get help.

I’ve done all my recovery in Santa Cruz. Pure concentrated power of will is what’s needed for me, combined with threat of incarceration. I’ve done a lot of jail time in multiple counties and states, and it’s one of the few things that frightens me.

After 5 months at Janus’ SLE, I used again after getting stressed out by not being able to pay rent. I went to another program and then back into the same SLE. Then I used again when I couldn’t find work, and overdosed. I came to in the hospital, with my case worker telling me I had court the following day and I would be remanded.  By this time, the court had about enough of my behavior, and were about to just give me jail time (280 days), but I decided to go on Vivitrol, which is a monthly shot that makes it impossible to get high. In my opinion, it’s a miracle drug.

On one of my last days in jail, I was watching TV and got a sort of subliminal message. One of the characters on TV said, “We give you chances other people only dream of, and you throw them away.” That night, I prayed God would give me the miracle that recovery people talk about as soon as I got out of jail. And the day I got out, my case worker brought me to HGP.

Homeless Garden Project is the embodiment of everything I need in a job right now. Everything about it is excellent for a person in recovery, planting seeds and watching them grow is a reflection of what I’m trying to do in real life, to internally start over. When I bike to the farm, I take a wonderful ride down West Cliff, and then show up to work at the place that’s the first job I’ve ever had I don’t hate after two or three weeks. It’s a great place to bond with people from all walks of life, and I’m sure it is an amazing place for people to better understand and humanize homeless people, and to erase classism on all sides of society.

To homeless trainees and housed trainees like myself, HGP is a unique opportunity to try something new and better ourselves. I knew next to nothing about farming or gardening before I started working here, and I learn more every day. I’m very grateful to have this program in my life and if every county had a program like it, it would destigmatize homelessness statewide, maybe then, the nation. The farm as a whole is a perfect marriage of freedom and structure, and is one of the best things in my life today.

–Shannon McGurk is a trainee at Homeless Garden Project.

Note: Shannon participated in a two-week trial hire at HGP eight weeks before he wrote this. We worked with 13 people for two weeks alongside our regular crew, and were able to hire 5 into our training program, including Shannon; others were placed on a waiting list. This process informs our planning to scale up to serving 34 people each year, and eventually 50 people.




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Laurie Soderman Speaks at Holiday Gala 2015

My name is Laurie Soderman and I became a trainee earlier this year in May. When I was asked to speak tonight, describing my experience, a quote from a song by the band Genesis came to mind. They sang:

The sands of time were eroded by the river of constant change.

This is a glimpse of my story of Transformation, currently raw and in the making. Not started by easy-going willingness, but rather by the pungent taste of experience.  Like the Phoenix, who crashes and burns, then rises up out of the ashes reborn anew—the problem is, we aren’t mythical creatures.

We are people, who either forgot or never learned—we are children of the Creator, valuable, beautiful and bountiful of creative expression.

Homelessness stripped me of my “place” in society, along with my self-worth, self-love and respectability.  All attempts to pull, push, yank, drag or climb out of this dark abyss, this void, were met with repeated failure, jail, depression—a downward spiral without light or hope. My motivation—lost.  Following a butterfly would be a straighter path. Then….

While locked up in jail, a volunteer encouraged me to fill out and complete a job application from a place called the Homeless Garden Project, a transitional employment program.

So, I wrote them a letter requesting an application…

Mail Call—“SODERMAN,” the officer called. A job application arrived with a note simply saying, “Hope to hear from you,” had been mailed—to the jail!  Who does that?

Shortly after my release in early spring, I found myself volunteering at the Garden. A 3.5 acre sanctuary where clean, pressed, dress attire was not required. I sat on the ground, was introduced to Angela, a current trainee then.  We planted beets. I felt safe, comfortable and calm. Carefully removing delicate new life from trays and transferring them to their new home, tucking them in, encouraging them to grow…and not let the bed bugs bite!

My thought was to test the water and what really happened was that I was drawn in by nature’s charm.

Soon after, I found myself seated at my job interview, and expecting the same pablum, rote memorized, trite sayings. I was pleasantly surprised by something entirely different, new and inspiring!

Surrounded, accepted and embraced, this caterpillar began spinning a cocoon, to save my life.

With my hands in the Earth, I began to connect with something much bigger than I ever could have anticipated. The work itself began an internal healing process. Lindsay encouraged me to choose a place or a “plant friend” to visit daily.

The hyssop called to me, a lovely plant with purple and pink plumage—used for making tea; conveniently planted next to the bed of Holy Basil.  This bed of plants became my constant companion as I would wear a sprig of the plant in the rubber band also holding the braid in my hair.  The fragrance visited my gently throughout the day. Always grounding me and communicating with me, creating a living relationship, preparing a space within for pure and simple life and love; a foundation from which to build.

Our workweek begins with “circle,” a confidential check-in space and often answering the question posed for the week that inspires thought and looking inward. Stretching as a group follows, then off to our different posts consisting of flower harvesting and creating bouquets, or irrigation, greenhouse or vegetable production.

Laurie speaking at our Holiday Gala, 2015

One day a week we are provided with a class, with topics ranging from how to enroll at Cabrillo College, to the study of bees or writing skills. Each trainee is also matched with a social work intern who works closely with their trainees. My social worker helps me to identify my goals and strengths; they locate documents to assist with housing and a range of other support services. We create or update our resumes. The Homeless Garden Project creates an environment where each trainee is always being presented with the opportunity of a new task, thus increasing knowledge and building a variety of skills.

With a job that is rewarding and being infused by the generosity of the garden, I noticed I was changing—growing, eating healthier, becoming more mindful and developing a positive attitude.

Since May of this year, I’ve been housed and I’m in the final step of obtaining my driver’s license. I have plans to attend college next year and embark on a new journey into my new job—be it in a garden or an office.

If I could sum it up into one key point: this Project, this Garden, this Community gives me an opportunity; an opportunity to make a difference! What an extraordinary way to receive, contribute and give back!

–Laurie Soderman, 12.4.2015


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Getting Back to Life

Kat Speaks at Sustain Farm Dinner in the late afternoon light



Good Evening everyone.  Thank you all for coming tonight.  My name is Katrina Dubinsky.  Everyone calls me Kat.  I am a very fortunate volunteer at Homeless Garden Project and I’m grateful Darrie asked me to speak tonight.  I am especially pleased to speak on something that involves promise, hope, solutions and humanity.

I have much to tell about my experience at Homeless Garden Project.  Throughout my adult life, I thought about volunteer work but never took action.    The volunteering I am doing now is not just about giving back, it’s about getting back…to life.  I’m relearning how to be responsible, take direction, and set goals.  I now see value in all my relationships and every day is a gift.  While I’m a volunteer, I feel like a trainee.  Chris, Darrie, Lindsay, Mike, Jes, thank you for building me up to feel like an integral part of this project. To all of my trainee co-workers, I say thank you for accepting me as of part of your team and giving me of sense of belonging.   When I first arrived to volunteer and for many months after, everyone here thought I was a trainee, until they asked about my story… and I told them.

You see, almost eight years ago, I made choices that changed lives, including the lives of my family and my own life, in a very bad way.  When called to answer for those choices, I found myself standing on the threshold of prison sentence.  No one but my creator and I knew how dark this time became and where my thoughts could have led me.  My story wasn’t supposed to end that way.   Social justice and AB109 said I would serve my prison sentence at the Santa Cruz County Jail.

By participating in a recovery and behavior modification program offered thru the jail known as Gemma, I was chosen for a pilot project, which included volunteer work at Homeless Garden.   For change to happen someone had to take the initial leap of faith, and someone did just that.  I’m sure there were many people involved in the start up of this program that I never knew about. I did know two at the jail were instrumental in moving the idea of helping those with long term sentences to reintegrate back into society.  Those two were Lieutenant Plageman and Supervising Correctional Officer Diana Holland.

Together with Darrie and Stacy at Gemma they set up this program and I would be their first participant.  I was paving the way for others to follow.  This is how I came to volunteer at the Homeless Garden Project.

Event volunteers listen to Kat

The Homeless Garden Project’s staff, trainees and other volunteers,  probably didn’t know while we were working together, they were helping me regain many key life skills I had lost sight of so long ago…confidence, self-esteem, hope, integrity, purpose and finding forgiveness for myself. The garden has magic of its own, but it’s really about the people. That’s where the inspiration, solidarity and beauty come from.


Team work happens here. If we have a job that needs to be done, Chris, Mike or Lindsay give the direction and before you know it, a whole bed is planted out.  Together we get the job done.

The first place I worked at the garden was the green house with Andrew.  Look around you, all of this beauty came from tiny little seeds.    Helping with the harvest of food and flowers for the Community Supported Agriculture shares, I saw the results of our work. We are feeding people in many different ways.  I learned about irrigation, clearing and bedding up for planting.  I can recognize and name many of the flowers out here.  Love-in-a-mist and Dahlias are two of my favorites.

All trainees here are connected to social workers.  I too was linked with a social worker.  They show us how to get our needs met, sign up for school, find housing, and receive medical care and many other services.  They help us to help ourselves.  My “check-in” every week with my social workers became an opportunity for me to be vulnerable and let others support me–something I haven’t been able to do in the past.  These social workers became our friends and helped us achieve our goals, by teaching us to advocate for ourselves.  Thank you to all the social workers for the ample amounts of compassion you gave.

Dinner Guests

Our circle meeting, held weekly, is a place to share about our lives, the good, bad and the extraordinary; without judgment.  Society at times stereotypes others and in doing so, we are judging and diminishing their value. Think for a minute: what springs to mind when you hear the words:  homeless, inmate, law, police and felon?


During circle meetings, I see clarity and confidence rise and draw our group closer together because we value one another.  As I have told everyone in our circle, I receive so much more than I give here.

The Homeless Garden Project offers classes every week on a variety of topics, farming, conflict resolution and job skills, just to name a few.  We went to Shoreline, Goodwill’s Career Center, to prepare our resumes and check out jobs posted on line.  I am going to need a job when my freedom is restored and I’m ready for my first interview with my resume, and my confidence.

I’ve been thinking about what job I will seek.  We are all born with native gifts.  Those gifts, when we give them freely, can serve others as well as ourselves.  I was inspired when Angie asked for me to train in candle dipping with Raven.  Raven, you are a fun and energetic teacher.  The beeswax candles you so painstakingly dip are beautiful.  Angie provided me yet another opportunity–to participate in production of products like Lavender Shortbread, Herb Biscuits and Chocolate Rosemary Brownies which, by the way, Homeless Garden Project sells in their store and at the farm stand.

Baking is my passion.   Enjoying fresh baked sweets makes people happy.  I take pleasure in happiness.    On many occasions, I’ve baked for my housemates at Blaine Street Women’s Facility.  They always tell me, “Miss Kat, everything you make is soooo good you should sell your treats. People will love them!”

Angie, what is her title? Oh yes, Store Manager BUT WAIT! She’s so much MORE.  I have found such inspiration through Angie.  She’s showing me how to put together a plan for a social enterprise, that won’t just be about the product.  With Angie’s guidance in writing a business plan and costing out my recipes, I am doing the footwork necessary to start baking and selling products at Farmers’ Markets.  My mission statement has been written.  Putting my life’s experiences to work for the good of others I have found a higher purpose. Helping people to help themselves by giving them a job–who knows where it will lead us!  Jails to jobs, what a beautiful concept.

I have witnessed the success of many men and women who’ve graduated the year-long program at Homeless Garden Project.  Many graduated, with jobs and housing.

I have abundant amounts of gratitude for being able to do my time at the Blaine Street

Sheriff Jim Hart introduced Kat

Women’s Facility which afforded me the opportunity to work at the Homeless Garden Project. Those dark thoughts I had diminished with each passing day.  I have felt supported by many at the jail and at Homeless Garden Project.  In my personal opinion, this County was blessed the day Jim Hart became Sheriff Jim Hart.  He and all who work under him are not as portrayed in movies.  They are good people who care and constantly seek ways help those of us who have a hard time getting on our feet.  I know this thru firsthand experience and the fact that Sheriff Hart is here tonight.  Thank you, Sheriff Hart for your support of Blaine Street, the volunteer program and the countless other ways you give to this community.   The common ground has already been discovered.  I hope the Sheriff’s Department and Homeless Garden Project will be able to cultivate a relationship that could serve to further promote healthy productive lives and put what grows out here to the ultimate use, serving the needs of our community.


Steven, the love of my life always says, “Together we will get through anything.”  Steven, you have been unwavering in supporting me.  Keep looking to the future, soon you’ll see us BOTH there with our four beautiful grandchildren.   I love you.  Gratefulness and gratitude are abundant in my heart.  I have gained wisdom beyond my years and I will use that wisdom and all I have gained at Homeless Garden Project, to do good works in the world.

Our guests respond to Kat's talk

To everyone here, it’s important that you know how vital your support is to Homeless Garden Project and how much everyone here values that support, past present and future. The very fact you are here tonight speaks volumes for this community.


I’ll leave you with this African Proverb: If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together.

–Kat Dubinsky

Thanks to David Dennis Photos







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Ignite a spark inside me

Chris received a standing ovation when he gave this talk at our Farm Dinner

Hello everyone, I’d like to thank everybody for coming out to visit our farm. “Our farm.” It’s funny when I say “our farm.” I think of all the numerous people that have come here whether it to be a volunteer, donate, find some peace and quiet, or like many of us in the trainee program, to help put our lives back together and give it purpose. All of us have left our mark here, but more apparent is the mark that this incredible place leaves on you, as well as a sense of self worth, dignity and confidence that have helped me to truly define who and what I am, and what I want to be.

Chris Roberts Crystal Birns Photography

How did I come to this point? Well let me tell you a little bit about what defines me. I grew up in a split household. One, a military family with strict discipline and harsh consequences as the eldest to my 3 half brothers and the other, considered the black sheep. I felt alone, out of place and incapable of doing anything right, no matter where I was. At age 11, I thought I had found the answer to those feelings in drugs. My self-proclaimed answer has taken me everywhere from rehab and hospitals to near death to jails and wilderness camps; finally at 30 years old in front of judges, with three years of prison hanging over my head asking me, “What are you doing with your life?”  I have tried recovery numerous times but without any meaningful purpose to guide my actions, I always seemed to fall short of success.


One of my biggest defining points of my life was on October 29, 2004. Four months before I turned 21, I became a father. My son Casey became the light of my life. My son and I share a very special bond that can only be defined as unconditional love and understanding. We have gone through CPS together, the special women in our lives leaving us, homelessness, all the while trying to manage his symptoms. In 2009, he was diagnosed with autism and severe ADHD and in 2010 received his third classification of being a runner.

These things and more have strengthened our bond to one another. We truly are each other’s shadow. Being the father to such a special boy means I have been gifted with patience, understanding, compassion and unconditional love. Now as parents, we’re expected to know everything, have all the answers and be the perfect role models to our children. But in reality, it’s not the case. We make mistakes and learn along the way, just as they do. After everything I’ve gone through and we’ve gone through, my goal, my biggest hope is that I will have raised my son to be a better person then I was and to not follow in all of dads’ footsteps.

All these events, leaning experiences and people are important defining moments in my life but they do not solely define who and what I am. Up until the beginning of the year, I couldn’t see that. I let people and my past define my future. In mid January of this year, it was suggested by several close friends to check out this place, this Homeless Garden Project, and see what it was all about.

I had no idea what to expect. I was a couple months’ clean with no real sight to aim for. I knew how to care for my son and run a functional home, but didn’t know how to make myself happy. In a very short time I began to feel good about what I was accomplishing at the farm and a spark began to ignite inside of me. What had started as my own little personal therapy session grew and blossomed into a bright new-found passion, and I began to feel my purpose. February 1, 2015 marked a fresh start as my first official day as a trainee. Now it’s August and I have been an official trainee for 6 ½ months. I have learned everything from irrigation to how to prep a bed, plant it, maintain it, harvest it, and break it down to start over. Let’s not forget keeping your soil healthy by crop rotation and cover cropping. At the end of this month I will have successfully completed my two- month post in the green house and am going to take it to the next level, and learn the behind-the-scenes work that comes with managing a farm.



All these skills are just the tip of the mark left on me by this remarkable place. This is my home, my safe place, my tranquil serenity. And because of the positive effect this place has, I was discharged from probation early and my felony has been erased from my record.

This oasis of hope has given me purpose and a goal. I now know what I want to do with my life. In the spring of 2016, I will be enrolling at Cabrillo College in agriculture and horticulture to become a farmer. I have had several job offers when I finish the program, but my ultimate goal is to have my own farm and teach children and adults with similar characteristics to my son so that I can pass on the same feelings of accomplishment, confidence, purpose, and belonging that this place has passed on to me.

Without this place, without the bosses we have–Darrie, Chris, Lindsay, and Mike, (who like me started as a trainee and became much more)–without their understanding, compassion and guidance and the support of the many people who support our farm,  I and many others like me would be lost, destroyed, incarcerated, or worse. I hope this place lasts for many, many more years to help show the hundreds or even thousands of homeless people that are sick, tired, hurting or just plain stuck in a pit of unending despair that there is help, hope and a real light at the end of the tunnel. Thank you all for listening, have a great night.

Chris Roberts, Homeless Garden Project trainee, Talk at August 22, 2015 Sustain Farm Dinner in honor of HGP 25 Year Anniversary

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