Why We Do It

WHY DOES THIS COMMUNITY NEED A PLACE LIKE HOMEBOY INDUSTRIES?


Recidivism among youthful offenders is extremely high: 2/3 will be re-arrested, up to 1/3 re-incarcerated within a few years after release
“The math on these sorts of initiatives is simple,” says Adam Gelb, a public-safety specialist at the Pew Center on the States: A day in prison costs $79 on average; a day on probation costs $3.42. “States can substantially beef up supervision in the community and do it at a fraction of the cost of a prison cell,” he says. (Wall Street Journal March 20, 2010).
According to the California Department of Education, the rate of 9-12th dropping out among black high school students rose to 43.5% and to 36.1% for Hispanic/Latino students in 2009. In East Los Angeles, over 53% of adults never completed high school. In October 2010, Education Week labeled Los Angeles the “dropout epicenter” of the nation. Los Angeles County is home to 34% of California’s poor, with a poverty rate of 16.1%. 75% of youth gang homicides in the state of California occur in Los Angeles County.

OUR HISTORY AND HOMEBOY AS A MODEL


In the 1980s, the city of Los Angeles was struggling to deal with escalating gang violence and gang membership. At that time, Boyle Heights had more gang members per capita than any other place in the country. Around that time, Father Greg realized, with the help of many people in his parish, that he needed to provide jobs and education as alternatives to the gangs and the senseless violence they create. So, we started a small job program, "Jobs for a Future," as part of Dolores Mission in 1988. We became Homeboy Industries in 2001, and have grown to become one of the largest, most comprehensive and most successful gang intervention, rehabilitation and re-entry programs in the country.
“Homeboy Industries has been the tipping point to change the metaphors around gangs and how we deal with them in Los Angeles County. This organization has engaged the imagination of 120,000 gang members and helped them to envision an exit ramp off the "freeway" of violence, addiction and incarceration. And the country has taken notice. We have helped more than 40 other organizations replicate elements of our service delivery model, broadening further the understanding that community trumps gang -- every time.”  - Father Greg


The tide of gang activity and law enforcement has turned in Los Angeles County over the past 25 years, and that couldn't have happened without Homeboy Industries. We offered a simple question, "What if we were to invest in this population rather than just endlessly incarcerate?" that has redirected our attention away from suppression and onto treatment and education. Homeboy played an integral role in replacing the "tough on crime" mantra that predominated in the 1980s and 1990s with a "smart on crime" model that many police and sheriff's departments have adopted.


What this place discovered was that it was a lethal absence of hope that leads kids into gangs, and the fact that there was no way out of the cycle of gang violence compounded people’s despair. So Homeboy offered this model, in the fullest sense, of community trumping gang. And the model has been sort of contagious already – element of our model have been adopted in 46 different programs across the country and internationally -- from Alabama and Idaho to Guatemala and Scotland.
We have learned what the elements are that help heal this population so that they can transform their pain and not transmit it. When we provide technical assistance for replication of our model, we try not to take Homeboy to scale in a franchise way, but in a way that honors programs that are born from below. We don’t want to airlift this Homeboy model into other communities – we want other communities to determine their own needs and have ownership at a local level. We want each one to have its own character, cast and nature with an understanding that what can happen in Los Angeles – the gang capital of the world – sometimes does not translate to another place. We have a hyper-reverence for the dynamics of other communities rather than a need to import our model. We are not proposing a one-size-fits all model, but a way of proceeding. We help others understand elements of our own culturally-competent model so that they can develop and refine their own culturally competent model.  Together with other organizations across the country, we are building a network, widening the circle of kinship, and decreasing the marginalization of high risk members of our communities.


Homeboy Industries is unique among other organizations serving former gang members for a number of reasons. We have learned in that time that jobs are probably about 80% of what these folks need to redirect their lives. The other 20% is a mixture of therapeutic and support services. So, in addition to paying men and women to receive job training, we also require that they spend part of their working day here working on themselves. We offer education, therapy, tattoo removal, substance abuse treatment, legal assistance, and job placement services. We also offer six different social enterprise businesses where trainees can receive real job training that they can use immediately upon graduation from Homeboy. And we provide all of this in a trauma-informed, therapeutic community setting that also allows them to work on attachment repair and building healthy relationships with co-workers who may formerly have been members of rival gangs.


Father Greg has had several opportunities recently to travel internationally, at the invitation of organizations and government agencies who are interested in replicating elements of Homeboy Industries model. “One of the interesting things that I have learned through these travels -- and an interesting challenge I have faced -- is that places like Guatemala and Scotland are developing re-entry models for prisoners that bridge the prison-community division in very significant ways. On a recent visit, I helped one prison develop a hybrid model for bringing meaningful social enterprise work into the prison itself and beginning the process of training people and providing hope and support while they are still incarcerated. This work experience is not only transferable at the level of basic vocational skills, but the program itself is designed to offer employment opportunities for formerly incarcerated individuals as soon as they leave the prison. This community- and prison-based social enterprise model was inspired by the Homeboy Industries model, and I am proud to be a part of its continuing development.”


As one of the largest gang intervention, rehabilitation and re-entry programs in the country, Homeboy Industries has helped nurture into existence 46 similar programs in the United States (and several outside). The goal is to create a movement in this country to address the lethal absence hope among inner-city youth. A dream would be to formalize a “National Homeboy Network” to ignite further this model of social enterprise, a therapeutic community, healing, intentional attachment repair and jobs/skills training as an “exit ramp” for those stuck in a cycle of violence and incarceration. Convening and sharing strategies, best-practices and a common vision will be the hope for the future of the National Homeboy Network. Solidifying our services through implementation of lessons learned from the convention, reconvening to share results and advancing the movement are Homeboy’s dreams for the coming years. Part of Homeboy's wish is to broaden further the impact of our service delivery model by establishing and building partnerships with peer organizations who can become a part of the National Homeboy Network.