Updated: Jan 21, 2021
This story was amazing. I sent questions to an anonymous person who went through The Homeless Garden project as a trainee. ( There is also an interview with a homeless garden project employee and that explains what they are) Their story was inspiring and life-changing for me, it has opened new insights on what it is like to be homeless.
Here is their story:
1. How did you become homeless? What happened?
I lived with my mom who was renting a house. It was only supposed to be my mom, my uncle, and my brother on the lease, but she let me move in after my divorce from my husband. When my mom passed away three years ago the landlord told my brother that we had two months to leave because the landlords were selling the house. My uncle moved out of town to be closer to his daughter. My brother got help to move because he is a veteran, and I could not afford a place to live because the rent is too high. I knew close friends who had become homeless so I would park my truck behind them every night and they would look out for me. It was very scary the first night out on the streets and I was grieving the loss of my mom who was my best friend and went into a deep depression. It took me two years before I climbed out of that hole I was in and I finally started over all by myself. I worked very hard and started working for the Homeless Garden Project as well. The support and sense of community I felt from the staff and my co-workers has been amazing and life changing.
*not real person*
2. What is something that could have prevented you from becoming homeless?
If I would have had a college education, I’d like to believe I would have been able to have a good paying job and been able to afford rent in this town. In Santa Cruz it is very hard to rent a place because rent is so high, and some landlords require that the tenant earn two or three times the amount of the rent just to even have the possibility to try to move in. Maybe if I would have gotten the help I needed when I went to a dark place after losing my mom it might have made me go a different direction. Depression and anxiety can be very hard to overcome for some people. The truth is, people become homeless for so many different reasons that most people wouldn’t think about but some sort of either underlying or even worse, debilitating mental illness is one of those reasons for many people being on the street.
3. What are some misconceptions that people have about homelessness?
One misconception is that all homeless people are crazy. Being on the street for a little while opened my eyes to even my own stereotypes. Many homeless people work, but still can’t afford rent here. Some work but choose to not pay rent even if they could afford it. Some homeless people are addicted to different substances, but not all. I know many homeless people who are very active with their recovery program. I got to know some of the stereotypical “crazy” homeless people, and they are people who are hurting inside and just need love just like everyone else. Every homeless person has their own unique story to tell. Each story is different, just as each person is different. Some have no family, and some have their family together on the street. It is so easy to judge a person after one look at them, but if you look deeper, there’s a story each individual person could tell.
4. In what ways did the Homeless Garden Project help you (or is helping)?
After being homeless and jobless for two years, I reached out to the Homeless Garden Project to see if they were hiring. I knew a couple of people who had worked there in the past and had wonderful things to say about the company. Me and about 11 other people started working the same day exactly a year ago and it has changed all of our lives. The kind and loving support from the staff that they give each individual person based on what they need is beautiful. The Homeless Garden Project welcomes people who are homeless or who are trying to put their lives back together and start working again. It can be hard as a homeless person to have the confidence to apply for a job when it is difficult to find a place to shower, wash your clothes, and look presentable as one would want to look when trying to get a job. People say “why don’t they just get a job?” but they don’t realize that without a good night’s sleep, clean clothes, a shower, and transportation, it may be a little harder to have the self-esteem needed to make that first step to apply for a job.
The Homeless Garden Project welcomes all trainees with open arms no matter what they have been through or look like. They give people jobs and resources so they can get back on their feet. They have helped me learn how to make a better job resume, helped me with what I should say or expect in possible upcoming jobs I may apply for by doing mock interviews to help build confidence, and have offered so many resources in the community as well as assign each trainee a social worker who helps us work on our individual goals once a week. The love and support I get from each and every staff member has been beautiful to watch and experience. My fellow trainees have become dear friends. The sense of community I feel at the Homeless Garden Project is so beneficial for me as I have started a new life.
I have the ability to set and make goals. Now I can do my best to pay it forward after all of the kindness and extreme generosity the Homeless Garden Project has shown me. Thank you for the opportunity to help shed just a little bit of light on the very hard topic of homelessness and more importantly, the beauty of the Homeless Garden Project.