Transformation Stories

Hoang Pham: “Homeboy is my home”

A hot dog from Chino’s Dogs is delicious. Juicy and topped with grilled onions and peppers, it would be a great hot dog even without Hoang Pham’s special touch: a fresh Homeboy Bakery pretzel bun.

Hoang, the owner and operator of Chino’s Dogs, has been in business for nine months. “I used to work in the Homeboy bakery with Herb [Fingerhut, bakery director]. He got me started selling hot dogs for Homeboy and that gave me the idea for my own business.” When he left Homeboy last year, Hoang had $500 in his pocket. After researching microloans, he was able to secure the funds to buy his own cart. At first, “it was hard to have a legit business. It was up and down, managing money, learning how to run it.” Hoang has sold hot dogs in front of Homeboy headquarters and at events for the L.A. Derby Dolls.

Hoang grew up in the Pico-Aliso housing projects and first heard about Homeboy when he was ten years old. “At that time, Father Greg was a priest at Dolores Mission. He used to walk around the projects.” Through Father Greg, Hoang eventually got work making tortillas in a bakery. But he didn't stay. “I wasn't ready. I was too deep into the gangs. All these years that I knew Father Greg, I was in and out of prison, I would be working here and there, I would be fired, I would quit, I’d go back to selling drugs and gang banging.”

Then he experienced a moment of profound change. “I was smoking a cigarette and some feeling came up over me. I was tired of being tired. I prayed to God and told Him, ‘If You’re really the God that You say You are, if I leave everything behind and change my life, will You give me a small second chance, a new path? Will You give me that second life?’ That’s how I did it. And that’s what He did. I've been out for five years. I was with Homeboy for four and a half years before I got my business up and running.”

What motivates Hoang to keep going? “My mom. I saw what she was going through and it made me wake up. My mom’s not getting any younger. She’s already gone through so much with me. It’s time for me to step up and support her. She needs that peace of mind.”

As a former trainee, Hoang knows what homies face when they first come to Homeboy. “They tell me they want to do what I’m doing, that they want to open a business. But first you need to get your life together. You have to work on yourself before you do anything else. Coming into Homeboy Industries and asking for help? That’s a big step. Now you have to open the doors to understand yourself. Once you get that, and let people help you without judging you, there are a lot of people who will be there with you from the start to the end.” This kind of unconditional acceptance had made all the difference in his life. “You can’t tell anyone what to do. But you can show them, step by step, and they’ll understand you. You've got to break everything down in a way that they understand themselves.”

Hoangs next goal for Chino’s Dogs? “As my business grows and grows, I’m going to hire people from Homeboy. I've been there. It’s time for me to pass it on.” Homeboy will always be an important place for Hoang, who still finds time to work and volunteer. “I opened my doors to Homeboy Industries and saw what they had to offer me. I opened my doors and it made me who I am today. Homeboy is my home.”


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Marcus Avery: “It’s Family”

Orsy Jerez: Finding an Open Door

Valerie Copeland: “Homeboy is a place where it is ok to be myself”

Will Lopez: “I’ve had my second chance here—and my third, and my fourth”

James Horton: Compassion in Action

Victor Key: A Chance at Happiness

Gordy Abriel: Stepping Into a Brighter Future

Christy Stillwell: From Victim to Advocate

Javier Chavez: Mind, Body, and Spirit

Carlitos Asegura: Who are we? Homeboys! How long will we run? Forever!

Javier Medina: Made from Scratch

David Andrade: “Do it for yourself”

Brandy Harris: “Recognize who you are”

Ruth Butler: “Now I love my life”

Hoang Pham: “Homeboy is my home”

Rasheena Buchanan: “You can’t get this kind of love anywhere else”

Glenda Alvarenga: Hungry for Empowerment

Jermaine Smith: “There’s nothing else like this”

Pedro Mata: Working for a Better Life

Eugene Walker: An Advocate for Positive Living

George Nunez: Being the Father He Never Had

Mariana Enriquez: A Moment of Clarity

Amie Zuniga: How an Accidental Transformation Led to a Life of Purpose

Lami Glenn: “Their generosity is what drives me”

Evan Hess: Father’s Day, every day

Dorene Macias: parenting and paying it forward

Juan Marquez: Constructing Confidence

Gabriel Lopez - Two generations in gangs, two generations of change

Jose Arellano - Lost and found