Homeless Garden Project Experience

November 19, 2016

By Amy, Michael, Garima 

Homeless Garden Project image

Amy: One of the tasks that we interns in the Student Volunteer had for this quarter was to locate and organize a volunteer day for the SVC office. This would include all three of the interns and the three directors. We originally chose The Teen Kitchen Project to volunteer with, but due to conflicts we had to find another organization. Luckily, the Student Volunteer Center has a large database with many different non-profit organizations that need help. Through the database we found the Homeless Garden Project, which offers employment programs to the homeless within the Santa Cruz community. The programs include working at the Homeless Garden Project store, cooking hot meals for volunteers, and working on the 3-acre farm that the organizations maintains. The Homeless Garden Project is a wonderful opportunity for people who need the help to get back into the community and learn valuable life skills for future employment opportunities.

When we arrived onto the farm it was 10AM and starting to sprinkle. We met with Don who told us more about the farm and how it helps the homeless. The project started in the 1990s and produces food year round, Don informed us that the Santa Cruz climate allows for certains foods to be in season all year round. For example, strawberries will always be in season when grown locally in Santa Cruz. After informing us about the organization, Don had us pull weeds in a lavender patch. It was my first time in a lavender patch, it was so cool to smell the lavender in person rather than through a candle. I had never pulled weeds before so it was definitely a new experience to be working on the patch. We then pulled weeds from inside a greenhouse. It felt good to know that we were helping healthy food grow and that it would be used in the store or kitchen for the homeless to learn important and valuable skills.

Michael: On a rainy Saturday morning, the other interns and I got into a car and traveled 20 minutes to the Homeless Garden Project Farm. Once we arrived at the farm, the directors and us met an energetic old man called Don. As we walked towards a patch of garden, Don told us about how this organization came to be. The Homeless Garden Project Farm was created to help the homeless in Santa Cruz, to teach them the necessary skills to get back on their feet. For the next hour, the directors and us the interns worked on the patch as well as in the greenhouse. Our main job at the farm was to take out the weeds around the patches as well as around the mint in the greenhouse. The most fulfilling moment was when I was finally able to pull out the tall weed plants. After all the weeding, it turns out that we pulled out over a wheelbarrow full of weed. All in all, this was a great volunteering experience with everyone especially with the rain.

Garima: Being an intern at the Student Volunteer Center is not an easy job. As interns, we must complete multiple tasks around the office, as well as complete certain assignments, on top of homework and other classwork. One of the assignments that an intern must do, is to find a group volunteer day. A group volunteer day is a day where the interns and directors spend time together volunteering at an organization that the interns must pick. Although the task sounds relatively straightforward, there are many factors into completing this assignment. Many nonprofit organizations are not open on the weekends, and as students, weekends work best for us. Then we had scheduling conflicts with a nonprofit that had a timing issue, and finding a time that worked with the directors and the interns turned out to be a troubling task as well. Luckily after making a lot of phone calls, and with some patient we were able to volunteer with the Homeless Garden Project.

The Homeless Garden Project Farm is a nonprofit organization dedicated to alleviating homelessness by providing job training in a calming environment. The Homeless Garden Project aim to decrease homelessness in the Santa Cruz area. There is a direct correlation between joblessness and homelessness, therefore this nonprofit provides jobs to homeless people. On top of working with a pay, the workers also learn skills to help them transition into a full-time job and reintegrate them into the workforce. As volunteers, we spent our time weeding the gardens. We started off with pulling the weeds some a lavender plant garden. The garden was donated by a family who planted it in memory of their late daughter. Within the first half another of weeding, it started to rain. So, we had to move to the greenhouse and we continued to pull out weeds. This task was a little bit more difficult as it was difficult to tell the difference between the mint plants, and the weed. Some weeds were approximately three feet long, so those took a while to be pulled out. By the end of our group volunteer day, we managed to pull out enough weed to fill a barrel.