The student news site of Diablo Valley College.

The Inquirer

The student news site of Diablo Valley College.

The Inquirer

The student news site of Diablo Valley College.

The Inquirer

Homeless Gardener’s Creation Destroyed, Community Members Outraged

Blake Amis

A 200-foot-long garden in Pleasant Hill stands as a testament to one man’s resilience and determination.

Jorge Orozco, a 35-year-old undocumented immigrant and homeless individual, over the years transformed an abandoned patch of land along the Contra Costa Canal into a flourishing garden, using hand-crafted tools as well as some that people donated to him.

But despite being cherished by locals, Orozco’s labor of love met an abrupt end on April 4 when Contra Costa County crews razed the garden to the ground.

Orozco was arrested on March 10 by the Pleasant Hill Police Department on a warrant for charges that stemmed from drug paraphernalia and missed court appearances. His bail was set at $1,000.

According to those who know him, Orozco’s story is one of struggle and resilience, which also highlights some of the complexities of homelessness and community dynamics.

“Mr. Jorge Orozco is a modern-day folk hero who built his own Garden of Eden right in DVC’s backyard,” said Jennifer Su, a Pleasant Hill resident. According to Su, despite grappling with poverty and discrimination, Orozco was talented and consistent in his work ethic. 

Su, who frequents the same local dog park as Orozco, spoke passionately about his impact on the community. “He makes these beautiful gardens,” she said.

Her sentiments echoed a broader sense of admiration that some locals expressed for Orozco, whose garden became a symbol of hope and renewal for unhoused individuals. 

Wayne Calhoun, a longtime Pleasant Hill resident and homeless advocate, described Orozco as an energetic and skilled individual.

“[Orozco] worked all his waking hours, every day of the week,” Calhoun recalled. 

“Shortly after I met Jorge, he lost all his equipment to theft by other Latino homeless folks who were dishonest, opportunistic, and jealous of Jorge’s hard work,” Calhoun recounted, emphasizing the challenges Orozco faced in his journey

Yet amid adversity, Orozco continued to inspire those around him with his optimism.

“Ironically, a talented gardener and tree climber has now been leaf-blown into incarceration,” Calhoun remarked, his words tinged with sadness.

For Calhoun and others who witnessed Orozco’s journey, the demolition of his garden symbolized the broader struggles faced by the homeless population, and the urgent need for compassionate and sustainable solutions.

For Su and others who had come to cherish the garden Orozco created, the sight of its destruction was devastating.

“Instead of putting him in jail, someone could have talked to him and helped him find a place where he could do this [work],” Su said.

Calhoun agreed that what Orozco needed was an area to express his boundless creativity.

”Jose [Orozco] is an important thread in the fabric of our community, and we need to figure out a way to help him get along and thrive,” said Calhoun.

“He has the skills and the passion to be a productive member of society.” 

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About the Contributors
Jag Mishra, Staff Writer
Blake Amis, Graphic Artist

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  • M

    Michael EaskerMay 19, 2024 at 6:10 pm

    So, I think this garden was along Grayson Creek (that is where there is a dog park), not Contra Costa Canal (I’ve never seen a dog park there), and I think the homeless individual referenced was Asian, not Hispanic. An individual matching the description I have indicated was indeed everything else this article referenced: industrious, friendly, ostensibly a boon to the particular area he had landscaped beautiful terraces.

    • T

      TonyMay 22, 2024 at 4:08 pm

      Yes, the garden was along Grayson Creek and had beautifully landscaped terraces, as well as stonework and wood carvings. The gardener is Guatemalan. The article states his charges were drug related. That is a partial truth, he was targeted and charged for trespassing and being a public nuisance for gardening and living under the bridge. He made the area beautiful and took care of things. It is a pity there was not a more creative solution in this situation. Meanwhile, there is dry and dangerous overgrowth along the creek and people throwing trash in it as well as other unsavory activities that officials choose to ignore.