Jeannie came to Santa Cruz 30 years ago to study sculpture. Like many locals, she lived the artist lifestyle. She worked as a potter, a farmer and started her own jam business, living on local farms and in art studios along the way. Her jam business grew a loyal base of customers and kept her committed to the area. “Santa Cruz is one of the best places in the world to be a jam maker,” Jeannie noted. Even with the business growing, housing became increasingly tough to find. Eventually, she began living in her car, and when that became too tough, she joined the Faith Community Shelter in early 2020.
From there, she rode out pandemic in the safety of the shelter, making jam when she could. As vaccines rolled out, her partner Eric decided to move from Colorado in hopes of helping Jeannie find stable housing. He remembers his plan well. “Come out. Get a job, and get Jeannie out of the shelter. I had to get her out, and I couldn’t do it from Colorado.” He quickly found work and support through the Homeless Garden Project and began saving for their future.
About that same time, the couple was awarded a housing voucher, which would allow them to rent an apartment and pay only 30% of their income. The couple, and AFC staff, began scouring rental listings. Their housing search was long, and often filled with disappointment, until one day last summer. A landlord who had a good experience with another AFC participant called shelter staff to say he had another rental available, and he'd love to rent to another shelter member.
Jeannie and Eric toured the quaint duplex in the redwoods, loved it, and were approved on the spot. Within a couple of weeks, they were moved in, and Jeannie was cooking gourmet meals and making jam.
While the couple’s stay at the shelter wasn’t perfect – moving everyday can be hard – one of the most impactful experiences was the hospitality of FCS volunteers. “The people were so generous. We at like kings and queens,” Eric reflected.
Jeannie summed up their journey well. “I still look at Eric and say we get to go home!...It’s like a miracle. I can’t believe it’s actually happening!”
Want to try Jeannie’s Jams? Visit her site: http://www.jeanniesjams.com/.