Frequently Asked Questions

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General Information

About Homegirl Cafe and Catering

About Employment Services

General Information

What does Homeboy do?
We help formerly gang involved and the previously incarcerated, by offering hope, training and job skills. Our goal:  To help former gang members redirect their lives and become contributing members of their families and our community. Homeboy Industries is the largest gang intervention program in the nation and has become a model for other organizations and cities.

How long has Homeboy been around?
Homeboy celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2013.  The program was started by Father Greg Boyle in 1988 to answer the need for employment opportunities among youth.  It began in th Dolores Mission Parish in Boyle Heights (East Los Angeles).  Today, Homeboy is located in gang-neutral downtown Los Angeles.

What are Homeboy’s Social Enterprises?
There are seven social enterprises:
Homeboy Bakery
Homeboy Silkscreen & Embroidery
Homegirl Café & Catering
Homeboy/girl Merchandise
Homeboy Farmers Markets
Homeboy Diner at Los Angeles City Hall
Homeboy Grocery

The Homeboy Café and Bakery at LAX opens Summer 2012 in the American Terminal

True to the nature of the definition of a social enterprise, Homeboy works to maximize improvements in human and environmental well-being through its businesses. 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.

What services are offered at Homeboy?
Case Management
Tattoo Removal
Employment Services - job preparation and placement
Mental Health Services - individual therapy, substance abuse counseling, and group classes
Legal Services
Curriculum and Education - including a GED program, a partnership with LearningWorks! Charter High School, life skills and enrichment classes
Solar Panel Training and Certification - preparing students to take a national certification test

All of Homeboy’s services, offered free of charge, are designed to equip our clients to successfully turn their lives around.

How are Homeboy’s programs successful?
We have found that our ability to provide both jobs and free support programs in one location vastly increases the likelihood of a client taking advantage of all services offered, and completing the program successfully.  It is well known in the community that the more a client has to travel from one location to another the greater the likelihood that they will not make it to the subsequent locations. Homeboy has more than 24 years of experience in the Los Angeles community, and we are a trusted service provider.

Homeboy is also effective at SAVING MONEY: the average cost to keep a juvenile in detention is between $100,000-$150,000 a year in LA County, and this figure doesn’t include mandated mental health or education services. For adults, incarceration costs range between $45,000 and $65,000 a year. Of course, this doesn’t take into account the opportunity cost of incarceration; for juveniles, every day in detention increases their chances of returning to jail as an adult, and for adults, prison time means a loss of potential job experience, productivity and wages, abandonment of parental responsibilities, and leaving behind a family that now relies on a single-parent’s income.  According to Cohen (1998), a high-risk youth will cost society between $1.7 and $2.3 million over their lifetime.

Compare this to the cost of Homeboy Industries: we provide job-training positions that give our clients much-needed skills (from pastry baking to managing a diner, growing victory gardens to silkscreen printing and solar panel installation) while providing them with free services, from tattoo removal to parenting classes, GED tutoring, legal assistance and substance abuse counseling, all for a cost of $20,000-$45,000 per client. This means that we cost much less than incarceration, but provide much more—including a salary to support what are often very young parents trying to break the cycle of gang involvement for their children.

How many jobs do you provide?
In the course of a year, Homeboy will employ 240-280 in the businesses and other job training positions in the administrative headquarters and program services.

Where does Homeboy Industries get money?
Homeboy gets funding from a large cross section of private foundations, individual and family foundations, our Board members, fundraising events and revenue from Homeboy’s social enterprises. Homeboy receives some government funding as well as support from corporations.

How much money do the social enterprises/businesses bring into the organization?
Of the annual $14,700,000 operating budget, the businesses provide about 25% of the revenue needed to sustain all of the free programs and services. This year (2012) we estimate the businesses will bring in approximately $3,500,000.

While Homeboy is proud that our social enterprises provide robust support for our budget, we know that they will never truly be “profitable.” This is because we consider ourselves a true job-training program; we strive to maintain as many job training positions as possible for our clients, which means that our businesses are always a little “over-staffed,” and programming like education, tattoo removal, and therapy is part of the workday for our trainees. As Fr. Greg likes to say, “We don’t hire homies to bake bread. We bake bread to hire homies.”

How does someone apply for help at Homeboy Industries?
Each person has to come to our headquarters and walk in the front door. We look to hire those with the MOST barriers to employment; youth recently released from juvenile camps and halls, or adults from prison, those with visible tattoos and those who are trying to leave their gang. There is a process to joining our program that can take several visits, but the first step is coming into our headquarters so we can meet you!

Why do people join gangs?
This is a huge, troubling question to answer, and there is no one reason a young person joins a gang, and it certainly is less about the appeal of gang membership and more about a void of other options. Our founder and Executive Director, Fr. Greg Boyle, often says that he’s “never met a hopeful kid that joined a gang.”

Here at Homeboy, we serve primarily formerly incarcerated and gang involved youth. 100% are low income, 99.9% are people of color (we currently have a client base that is about 70% Latino, 22% black, 6% Asian, and 2% more than one race), the vast majority have PTSD or complex trauma, many were abused or abandoned as children, all have been witnesses to serious violence, and most are at about a first-to-third-grade reading level. When you grow up in a family of gang members, or you have to walk through eight different gang neighborhoods on the way to elementary school, or you’re homeless, or no one in your family has ever graduated college, joining a gang doesn’t always seem like a bad (or particularly big) decision.

There is no one set of characteristics that makes a child “more at risk” of joining a gang, but it is important to consider the larger picture surrounding the places where gangs become a real issue: are they places where there is a great public education system? Access to social services? Residential integration between different socioeconomic and racial groups? Usually, the answer is no.

Our clients come from diverse backgrounds, but the majority have experienced serious trauma of some kind, whether it be abandonment as a child, sexual or physical abuse, a history of family violence and drug involvement, and so on. However, it is also possible for someone who has not experienced any notable degree of these circumstances to join a gang; sometimes the larger environment you are raised in is simply difficult to avoid.

As for how to prevent children from joining gangs, this is a question that researchers, nonprofits, schools and government programs spend huge amounts of time and resources trying to answer. In short, the cycle of gang violence has to be approached at every level; prevention and intervention. Homeboy Industries falls into the “intervention” category, as we work with those who have already joined gangs and help them to become contributing members of our community and raise their children so that they will not perpetuate the cycle. However, we recognize how vastly important prevention is as well; anything from early childhood education, to nutrition programs in schools, to mental health services in low-income communities, contributes to reducing the presence of gangs in our communities.

Is Homeboy Industries a faith-based organization?
While Homeboy began as a grassroots movement started by Jesuit priest Father Greg Boyle (our Executive Director today) in the Dolores Mission Parish, Homeboy Industries is a 501(c)3 nonprofit, a Community Based Organization (CBO).  Many of the things we work to change at Homeboy are in line with the Jesuit practice of social justice, but we are not affiliated with any particular religion. We are so happy to have friends, supporters, and clients from incredibly diverse faiths and spiritual practices.

About Homegirl Cafe and Catering

How many people are employed in the café?

At full capacity, about 45 women and men run the Café and participate in our Café training program.  

Are only women allowed to work in the café?

No! We do have a few young men in the café training program and encourage any of our clients with an interest in learning culinary skills, urban farming, or hosting and serving to join the training program. That said, we have found over the years that by having many of our women employees in one place, we can address some of the issues that are very specific to our female clients; in weekly education classes and the provision of services, we focus on domestic violence, parenting as a single mother, GED completion and women's empowerment, all issues that are challenges to overcome for our female clients. In doing so, we hope to empower these women to leave dangerous domestic situations, be strong mothers and leaders in their community, and pursue their career goals in all industries. 

Where are Homegirls gardens?

We have a mini farm on site, located in Homeboy Industries' parking lot. We also have gardens at Dolores Mission School, Metabolic Studio (Los Angeles State Historic Park) and in two co-worker's backyard. We work in partnership with Farmworks LA and the UC Master Gardener Program. We gladly accept produce from volunteers’ backyards and would love to hear from you if you are interested in growing for Homegirl Café.  

Do the gardens supply produce to the Cafe?

The gardens produce 15-30% of Homegirl Café’s needs. During jalapeno season the gardens produce 100% of the Cafe's chile needs!

What do you grow in the gardens?

We grow an assortment of seasonal vegetables, herbs, citrus, wildflowers and some native plants.

Is the produce grown organically?

All of the produce we grow is 100% organic and non-genetically modified (non gmo) from soil, to seed, to veggie!

 For more information about the Homegirl Gardens or to become a backyard garden volunteer, please contact Richard Garcia at richardg@homeboy-industries.org for more information.

About Employment Services

Does Homeboy Industries offer outside job placement?

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.

How do I enroll in the Employment Services department at Homeboy Industries?

Clients interested in enrolling with the Employment Services department are required to attend an Information Session. These sessions are held every Monday and Friday at 11 a.m. After attending the Information Session, each client is then required to complete a series of three classes providing information about job searching, interviewing, and computer literacy. When a client has successfully completed these three classes, they are assigned to work directly with an Employment Counselor who will meet with them one-on-one to assist the client in their search for employment. 

Please contact the Employment Services Department at Homeboy Industries to learn more about their services and how they can assist in developing employment opportunities