Homeboy Industries assists at-risk and formerly gang-involved youth to become positive and contributing members of society through job placement, training and education. Founder Greg Boyle S.J. is a recipient of the Elfenworks Foundation In Harmony With Hopesm award for his “jobs not jails” intelligent, compassionate approach. Contact: www.homeboy-industries.org ~ 130 W. Bruno St / Los Angeles, CA 90012 ~ (323) 526-1254
About Founder Greg Boyle, S.J.
The gritty streets of Los Angeles’s projects make up his home, and his flock—recovering gang members—are more like wolves than sheep, but that doesn’t stop Father Gregory Boyle from carefully tending his pastoral duty. In return, Father Greg derives great joy along with some heartache, and both help shape his life and fill it with meaning.
Father Greg’s true ministry began when he was assigned to the Mission Dolores parish in 1986, located in the heart of four different projects that are home turf to eight rival gangs. Just as he knew at an early age that he was called to serve God, he knew his specific path was to minister to the lost and poor. He’d spent a few years teaching at LA’s Loyola High School but his work at Dolores Mission, supported by time spent with the poor in Bolivia and with convicts in Mexico and at Folsom Prison, introduced him to his “homies”—kids and adults who had never known the possibility of hope, and the change that hope can create.
Today, Father Greg runs Homeboy Industries, a 250-employee nonprofit organization, with a nearly $9 million annual budget. Homeboy’s stated mission is to help at-risk and formerly gang-involved youth to become positive and contributing members of society through job placement, training and education. To that end, Homeboy Industries is a one-stop shop, providing a holistic approach for those who have decided to leave the world of gangs behind. Homeboy provides addiction and recovery programs; a full curriculum of classes that includes anger management, parenting, GED and computer classes; and free services such as tattoo removal, mental health counseling, job development, legal counseling and case management.
Each year 12,000 community members avail themselves Homeboy Industries’ services. Three quarters of them are active gang members in LA’s 1100 gangs. For most, the first stop is a visit with Father Greg. Eighty-five percent of those seeking services are on probation or parole. They’ve heard Father Greg speak: he regularly visits 25 of LA’s youth camps and jails. He offers encouragement and an alternative to gang life. When he leaves, he hands out a business card with his cell phone number and asks the inmates to come visit him when they get out. And so they do.
Those more ready to fully leave the world of gangs behind—a world often populated by their parents, grandparents and aunts and uncles—often find themselves working for one of Homeboy Industries’ own businesses: Homegirl Café & Catering, Homeboy Bakery, Homeboy/Homegirl Merchandise, Homeboy Silkscreen & Embroidery, Homeboy Farmers Markets and Homeboy Diner. Together, these social enterprises fund about a third of Homeboy Industries’ operations. Two hundred former gang members help 50 senior staff members manage and run the entire operation. Those for whom there is not room in the businesses are guided to outside employment by job counselors who forge connections with dozens of businesses in Los Angeles.
Those less ready may have a tattoo removed and attend a few counseling sessions before veering back into the life they know best; a little later, they may find their way back to Homeboy Industries, ready to commit to greater change. For many, it is a long, circuitous path out of the gangs. And for some, they never make it. Father Greg keeps track of those he’s lost forever, the ones who have died violently. The count stands at more than 175.
And Father Greg, or G-Dawg, is there for them: stalwart, solid and welcoming in a world without foundation.
In 2008, 20 years after Homeboy Industries was born (then known as Jobs for a Future), Father Greg helped dedicate a 21,000 square foot building located in LA’s Chinatown—importantly neutral gang territory. They day they moved in, they’d outgrown the space. Homeboy Industries is the nation’s largest gang-intervention program, and it is the only model that provides the full range of services that help those formerly involved in gangs find within themselves new identities, a crucial step in creating sustainable change.
In 2010, Father Greg published his first book, Tattoos on the Heart: the Power of Boundless Compassion, to great critical and reader acclaim. The book received the 2010 SCIBA (Southern California Indie Booksellers Association) Non-Fiction Book Award and was named as one of the Best Books of 2010 by Publishers Weekly. The 2010 Goodreads Choice Awards finds Fr. Greg nominated as Best Debut Author.
“Father Greg is total dedication, total love, and absolutely selfless,” claims Mona Hobson, Homeboy’s director of development. He’s also total focus—never forgetting the motto that is an integral part of their logo: Nothing stops a bullet like a job. And while he knows he can’t save them all, he started with saving one, and that was good. Twenty years later, Father Greg has helped more than 100,000 people in Los Angeles.