Our Vision

Planting Seeds, Transforming Lives

Twenty-nine years ago, Homeless Garden Project founder Dr. Paul Lee envisioned a haven, a place where people experiencing homelessness could rebuild their lives in the nurturing environment of a garden. That grassroots effort has grown to become an award-winning urban organic farm that provides job training, transitional employment, and support services to people experiencing homelessness.

The Homeless Garden Project’s education programs, enterprises, volunteer opportunities, and food distribution projects engage the entire Santa Cruz community, offering opportunities to experience the joy that comes from growing and sharing healthy food.

A Path Out of Homelessness that Connects the Community

The core work of the new Pogonip Farm will continue to be job training, transitional employment, and support opportunities for men and women experiencing homelessness to connect to housing, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, counseling, and health services. Trainees develop basic working skills like working as part of a team, problem solving, communication, and taking initiative. In addition, they acquire technical expertise in organic agriculture, production of value-added products, business operations, and sales. The Project’s 12-month program currently serves 30 people each year who are experiencing homelessness. The Homeless Garden Project is proud to report that in recent years, 92% of its graduates obtain jobs and housing. Since its founding, over 750 people have participated in the Project’s paid job training program.

Connecting the community is equally essential to the Project’s mission. Last year, nearly 3,000 volunteers provide over 15,000 hours of service through the farm/garden, farm stand, artisan workshop, retail gift shop, and education programs. Volunteers, including seniors, church groups, students, families, and professionals have the opportunity to work and eat side-by-side with trainees and build a supportive, positive community.

Our Mission & Future
In the soil of our urban farm and garden, people find the tools they need to build a home in the world.
The Homeless Garden Project’s transitional employment strategy combines wage-paid work, job skills training, and supportive services to help individuals facing barriers to employment succeed in the workforce and obtain housing. Transitional jobs program participants earn a paycheck, learn skills, and receive intensive mentoring and support. The National Transitional Jobs Network finds that, “Employment in quality jobs that pay a living wage is key to preventing and ending homelessness. Although most people experiencing or at-risk of homelessness want to work, many face significant barriers to getting and keeping jobs.” By engaging the entire Santa Cruz County community in this effort, the Homeless Garden Project addresses the root causes of homelessness and build self-sufficiency for homeless individuals.