Friday, January 16, 2009

Homeboy Industries

About two years ago, I had the opportunity to meet Father Greg Boyle, who is one of the most inspirational faith venture leaders I have ever met. There’s a good chance you’ve heard his story because he is a sought our expert on the issue of gang intervention strategies and makes many media appearances. I was even watching an international travel show on PBS this past year where Father Greg appeared as part of Globe Trekkers’ dining recommendations for Los Angeles.

Father Greg is the founder of Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles, California. He gave the keynote talk to a Faith and Enterprise seminar that I organized at the 1997 Social Enterprise Alliance Gathering in Long Beach, California. Father Greg shared with us many wonderful stories of life-change that have come about through his faith venture businesses and community programs.

Homeboy traces its roots to the 1988 formation of the Jobs for a Future program after the Los Angeles riots when the community was seeking solutions to gang violence. The organization acquired a bakery located across the street from its first facility and started Homeboy Bakery. Fundamental to Father Greg’s philosophy is the belief that gang problems can be solved by relationships formed in the workplace by individuals looking to leave gangs. The organization’s mission is summed up by the idea of “Jobs not Jails.” It assists at-risk and formerly gang-involved youth to become positive and contributing members of society through job placement, training and education.

The Homeboy faith venture now operates five transitional employment businesses besides Homeboy Bakery. These include Homegirl Café & Catering, Homeboy Maintenance, Homeboy Merchandise, Homeboy Press and Homeboy Silkscreen. If you’re in Los Angeles, it’s well worth a visit to the Homegirl Café to get a taste of the Homeboy programs.

In addition to these successful operations, Father Greg is not above admitting that they’ve had a few mistakes over the years. One of my favorite parts of his Social Enterprise Alliance talk was when he laughingly shared that their Homeboy Plumbing business did not work out. “It turns out that homeowners are not excited about a business that bring ex-gang members into their home,” he noted with a grin.

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