(Photo credit: Floyd B. Bariscale)
In the heart of Los Angeles, gang capital of the world, there is a social enterprise that has made a difference for over 120,000 former gang members so far. The organization is called Homeboy Industries and it is successfully giving former gang members an exit from violence, addiction and incarceration via employment, education and social services.
Much like our friends at Greyston Bakery in Yonkers, New York, Homeboy Industries is providing difficult-to-employ people with rewarding careers, keeping them out of incarceration and creating new hope for a brighter future. A variety of business ventures, from bakeries and cafes to silk screening shops and farmers markets, are employing roughly 300 men and women. These former gang members (often from rival gangs) are learning the valuable skills they’ll need to succeed while re-identifying who they are.
THE EARLY YEARS
Homeboy Industries was founded by Father Gregory Boyle during the peak of L.A.’s gang violence. With more gang members per capita than any place in the country, and no signs of a slow-down, Father Boyle saw a system that was clearly broken. So in 1988, he teamed up with a few open-minded local businesses and created “Jobs for a Future” with 70 former gang members signing up.
In 1992, the program took a major step towards its current path by converting an abandoned warehouse into its first business, Homeboy Bakery, to expand employment opportunities. The bakery started by producing tortillas, then bread, and eventually more businesses were added.
HOMEBOY INDUSTRIES TODAY
Father Boyle’s vision has turned into the largest and most successful gang intervention, rehabilitation and re-entry program on the planet. To date it has helped over 120,000 former gang members, with 10,000 walking through Homeboy’s front doors annually. 250-300 people are enrolled in Homeboy’s 18-month job training program at any given time, and each week an additional 500-600 employees access the program’s counseling and social services.
Elements of Homeboy’s model have been adopted into 46 programs across the country and worldwide, including Guatemala and Scotland. In 2014, the Global Homeboy Network was founded to further expand reach.
A KALEIDOSCOPE OF OPPORTUNITIES
In addition to working at any of its 6 social enterprises, Homeboy Industries also encourages participants to work on themselves through a variety of job training, education and support services. Homeboy offers counseling, mental health services, tattoo removal, substance abuse treatment and legal assistance. Job placement services help participants gain employment upon graduation from the 18-month program.
Social enterprises within the program are as varied as the men and women themselves. These include the Homeboy Bakery, Homegirl Cafe & Catering, Homeboy/Girl Merchandise, Homeboy Farmers Markets, The Homeboy Diner at City Hall, Homeboy Silkscreen & Embroidery, Homeboy Grocery and, most recently, the Homeboy Cafe & Bakery in the American Airlines terminal at LAX.
SUPPORT THE CAUSE
If Homeboy Industries strikes a chord with you, as it has with us, there is no shortage of ways you can support its mission. If you ever find yourself in L.A., visit one of their establishments or, if you’re like us and have a penchant for dessert, have some of their fresh-baked goods shipped to your doorstep. It’s a sweet way to support a good cause.