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.

Charlie, our emcee, and April

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