Every gift made to Homeboy Industries assists and helps to
provide hope for an individual seeking a second chance.
Tribute & Memorial gifts are an excellent way to remember a
loved one or to celebrate a special occasion in someone’s life.
Your gift will make a positive impact in the lives of many
formerly gang involved.
When Amie Zuniga came to Homeboy Industries to have some tattoos removed, she wasn’t thinking about transformation. She was newly sober as a condition of keeping her youngest daughter (she’d already lost custody of her older children), but she had no ambition to stay that way. When she heard about Homeboy’s 18-month Job Training program, “I thought I’d cheat the system for a while,” she recalls. “I figured I’d go back to using eventually.”
Like the majority of Homeboy trainees, she’d grown up in an abusive environment and never imagined herself accomplishing much. But a funny thing happened on her way to “cheating the system”: “It became normal for me to be clean. And I started to see the positive impact of taking care of myself.”
A turning point came when she heard Fabian Debora—a former trainee who is now Homeboy’s Director of Substance Abuse Services and Programs—talk about his own past, fleeing violence in his home only to replicate it on the streets. His story resonated. “I wanted what Fabian had,” she says. And if he could turn his life around, maybe she could too.
From then on, she took full advantage of Homeboy’s services. She enrolled in the Domestic Violence program and took Anger Management classes. She participated in our Restorative Justice program, an intense process in which people who’ve committed acts of violence take inventory of their own victimization and meet with crime victims.
Like all Homeboy trainees, Amie started on the maintenance crew, then worked her way up to more skilled positions. She worked in the Employment Services department and at Homegirl Café. She liked getting job experience, but her real passion was health care.
This is the second turning point in Amie’s story: The woman who once doubted her own ability to stay away from drugs now began thinking creatively about her future, and advocating for herself accordingly.
“I had a plan,” she says. “I talked to everyone.” She pushed for a transfer to Homeboy’s Tattoo Removal clinic. The passage of Proposition 47 enabled her to expunge her record, turning felonies that would have prevented her from working in the health care field into misdemeanors.
Today, Amie works as an HIV Counselor with the Los Angeles Community Health Project. She goes to some of L.A.’s toughest areas to hand out clean needles and share information about HIV and Hepatitis C prevention.
“The other day I talked to this girl at one of the camps under the 110 freeway, and she said: ‘Why would you try to help me? Ain’t no one going to hire me. I’ve been to jail.’ I told her, ‘I thought the same thing. I’ve been to jail too. Go to Homeboy.’”
Now Amie’s goals are to continue her education, move to a bigger apartment so that her older children can live with her when the time comes, and to “use my past for something positive.” She makes sure that the homeless women she encounters on the job get hygiene products in addition to clean needles. She knows that little things like that help people living on the margins maintain their humanity.
Some days, she can hardly believe how far she’s come. “Dude, I have a retirement plan,” she laughs, a bit incredulously. She remembers what Father Greg Boyle told her when she was struggling with her children: “He said, ‘Someday your kids will see the hero that we see in you.’ That meant a lot to me. I’m my own hero now.”