By 1988, having buried an ever growing number of young people killed in gang violence, Father Boyle and parish and community members sought to address the escalating problems and unmet needs of gang-involved youth by developing positive opportunities for them, including establishing an alternative school and day care program, and seeking out legitimate employment. They called this initial effort Jobs for a Future. “Gang violence is about a lethal absence of hope,” Father Boyle has said. “Nobody has ever met a hopeful kid who joined a gang.”
In the wake of the 1992 Los Angeles riots, Jobs for a Future and Proyecto Pastoral, a community-organizing project begun at Dolores Mission, launched their first social enterprise business in an abandoned bakery that Hollywood producer Ray Stark helped them purchase. They called it Homeboy Bakery.
….Today, Homeboy Industries employs and trains former gang members in a range of social enterprises, as well as provides critical services to 15,000 men and women who walk through its doors every year seeking a better life.
…Each year over 10,000 former gang members from across Los Angeles come through Homeboy Industries’ doors in an effort to make a positive change. They are welcomed into a community of mutual kinship, love, and a wide variety of services ranging from tattoo removal to anger management and parenting classes. Full-time employment is offered for more than 200 men and women at a time through an 18-month program.
…We offered a simple question, “What if we were to invest in this population rather than just endlessly incarcerate?” that has redirected our attention away from suppression and onto treatment and education. Homeboy played an integral role in replacing the “tough on crime” mantra that predominated in the 1980s and 1990s with a “smart on crime” model that many police and sheriff’s departments have adopted.
What this place discovered was that it was a lethal absence of hope that leads kids into gangs, and the fact that there was no way out of the cycle of gang violence compounded people’s despair. So Homeboy offered this model, in the fullest sense, of community trumping gang.
… We have learned in that time that jobs are probably about 80% of what these folks need to redirect their lives. The other 20% is a mixture of therapeutic and support services. So, in addition to paying men and women to receive job training, we also require that they spend part of their working day here working on themselves. We offer education, therapy, tattoo removal, substance abuse treatment, legal assistance, and job placement services. We also offer six different social enterprise businesses where trainees can receive real job training that they can use immediately upon graduation from Homeboy. And we provide all of this in a trauma-informed, therapeutic community setting that also allows them to work on attachment repair and building healthy relationships with co-workers who may formerly have been members of rival gangs.
…In 1994, the ceiling leaked, the oven broke, and the bakery closed. Father Greg found new partners; a worker from the Southern California Gas Company repaired the oven free of charge and USC Medical Center stepped up and said they would buy whatever the bakery could turn out. The business of job training and re-entry grew. Total disaster struck in 1999 when the bakery burned down, but despite these obstacles, Homeboy continued to grow and expand. More social enterprise businesses and new, free social programs were added and by 2001, Homeboy Industries was an independent non-profit. …Today, Homeboy is located in gang-neutral downtown Los Angeles.
…Thousands of young people have since walked through the doors of Homeboy Industries looking for a second chance, and finding community, sanctuary, and family.
…Social enterprises are businesses that apply commercial strategies to improve the well-being of individuals rather than creating enterprises for profit. Homeboy is an organization with many true social enterprises where trainees are paid to learn job skills and take advantage of comprehensive services. By offering former gang members a place to work, Homeboy provides a place for them to learn soft skills, like administration and customer service, and also vocational skills from solar panel installation to pastry baking or catering. These jobs in Homeboy’s social enterprises, often the first “legit” employment our clients have ever held, give our clients confidence and self-esteem while enabling them to provide for their families.
The jobs our clients have through our social enterprises offer them alternatives to re-incarceration or a return to their former gang lives.
Homeboy’s Social Enterprises include:
Homeboy Bakery (storefront, wholesale, and online at homeboyfoods.com.)
Homeboy Silkscreen & Embroidery
Homeboy Diner at Los Angeles City Hall
Grocery – Salsa
Homeboy Café and Bakery in LAX Terminal 4
What services are offered at Homeboy?
Mental Health Services – individual therapy, substance abuse counseling, and group classes
Education – including academic, life skills, wellness and enrichment classes,and a partnership with LearningWorks Charter High School.
Solar Panel Training and Certification
…Homeboy Recycling is the newest venture at Homeboy. We have partnered with Isidore Recycling who’s mission has been and still is to make recycling electronics easy, secure and accessible, while creating employment opportunities for people who have successfully exited California’s correctional system.
…All of Homeboy’s services, offered free of charge, are designed to equip our clients to successfully turn their lives around. Participants in the 18-month program are offered case management and comprehensive wrap-around services while at Homeboy. All of our services (with the exception of case management and individual therapy) are free and open to community clients as well.
…Homeboy Industries offers employment services to community clients. We provide assistance with developing job leads and building an individual’s marketing package to include resumes, references, and cover letters. Employment services assists with some transportation needs, offers free professional clothing, identification, certifications, work history documents, and other support services for individuals seeking employment.
(Yes, this is a break from the new cycle. Because we at the Peanut Gallery needed it!)
What a mensch this Father Greg, guy!