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The Homeless Garden Project

Learn about one of the longest running farms with a social mission serving those facing homelessness.

In 1990, Paul Lee started The Homeless Garden Project in the form of the Citizens committee for the homeless. HGP, based in Santa Cruz, California, provides job training, transitional employment, and support services to individuals experiencing homelessness. The Project operates their workshop and store as part of a value-added social enterprise that supports its programming. The Project's store sells products that are made or packaged by program trainees or local vendors.

The Project’s associated Natural Bridges Farm is operated March through October while the workshop is operated full time in December and January with transition months between farm and workshop as November and February. This configuration of work allows for year-round operation and a rolling enrollment for those who want to earn a fair living wage while working themselves to a more stable situation.

Carrying out their vision, mission, and values, The Homeless Garden Project reinforces contentment goals to those working at the farm.

Our Vision:

We envision a thriving and inclusive community, workforce and local food system.

We Value:

  • The capacity of all individuals for growth and renewal

  • The joy of growing and sharing healthy food

  • The well-being created by vibrant social and natural ecosystems

Contentment Goals of the Farm

  • P = Positive Emotion - outdoors, beauty, sunshine - observing and feeling

  • E = Engagement - In the flow - one with the task - in the moment

  • R = Positive Relationships - be a group that gives each other positive encouragement

  • M =Having Meaning - be part of something bigger than yourself.

  • A = Accomplishment - farming provides the nurturing, caring environment while producing tangible results

Beyond the daily farm and workshop work, the one-on-one relationship of trust between each staff member and each trainee is extremely important. Confidentiality is kept within the case manager assigned to meet with each trainee. The case managers huddle every week to share only those things that can help them be more effective coaches and empower the trainees to overcome the many barriers associated with homelessness. The Training and Education Supervisor meets at least once every two months with each trainee to review personal program goals set for that period.

A concentrated effort has been made to make Natural Bridges farm, the Project's store and its associated workshop a part of the Santa Cruz community. During the COVID year of 2020, 501 volunteered and rendered 3,431 hours of service. “Having this community of volunteers is essential to our success,” Executive Director, Darrie Ganzhorn, maintains. Each day, a pair of volunteers provide a hot, healthy lunch to the farm crew and volunteers. “The fact that we all eat and mingle together shows that we make no distinction between people. In this way we call each person by name and break down stereotypes or labels. The farm is so unifying; it enables us to create our vision together.” Darrie concluded.

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