Since 1988, Homeboy Industries has provided job training and counseling to thousands of former gang members, giving them a rare opportunity to change their lives. The organization was started by Father Greg Boyle in the Dolores Mission Parish in Boyle Heights — a part of East Los Angeles notorious for high rates of gang-related violence. Today, Homeboy is located in the more gang-neutral downtown LA, but continues to help transform the lives of high-risk, formerly gang-involved men and women through free services and programs, and social enterprises that serve as job-training sites.
There are seven social enterprises to date: Homeboy Bakery, Homeboy Silkscreen & Embroidery, Homegirl Café & Catering, Homeboy/Homegirl Merchandise, Homeboy Farmers Markets, Homeboy Diner at Los Angeles City Hall, and Homeboy Grocery.
By offering former gang members a place to work, Homeboy provides a place for them to learn employable skills, from administration and customer service to solar panel installation to pastry baking or catering. These are often the first “legit” jobs Homeboy employees have ever held, giving them confidence and self esteem while enabling them to provide for themselves and their families.
Homeboy Industries credit much of their success to the support programs offered under the same roof, increasing the likelihood that employees take advantage of these as well. These programs, which are offered free of charge, include everything from tattoo removal, substance abuse counseling and therapy to job preparation, legal services and a GED program.
In a given year, Homeboy employs 240-280 people. Although yearly profits are around $3.5 million, the organization recognizes that at an operating budget of slightly less than $15 million (additional funding comes from a large cross section of private foundations, individual and family foundations, Board members, fundraising events, some government funding as well as support from corporations), it will never truly be profitable. Homeboy sees itself more as a job training program than a for-profit business. These jobs can often be the only alternative to re-incarceration or a return to gang life for Homeboy’s employees, and the cost of employing a person is much less than the cost of incarceration. As Father Greg likes to say, “We don’t hire homies to bake bread. We bake bread to hire homies.”
The video above gives a great overview of Homeboy Industries and its incredible impact. Find out how you can help support the future of this important social enterprise.