Making the decision to leave a gang isn’t easy—finding a way to integrate yourself into the workforce with a family to support is even harder.
For men and women leaving prison or escaping from gang affiliation, California-based Homeboy Industries has been the place to go for over a quarter century. The nonprofit, which was first founded by Father Gregory Boyle 27 years ago, offers job training and placement, counseling, legal aid, educational programs and even free tattoo removal to over 10,000 men and women each year.
This week, Homeboy Industries was awarded a “Training to Work” grant through the U.S. Department of Labor. The multi-year grant will allow Homeboy to take on 150 new job training applicants in the business, food, construction, and manufacturing fields.
Homeboy Industries struggled for funding in its early days, and hit a major fallout known as “Black Thursday” in April of 2010, but they’ve been on the up-and-up since CEO Thomas Vozzo arrived in 2012, increasing revenues by 30% for the nonprofit organization’s social enterprises HomeboyFoods.com, Homegirl Café & Catering, and Silkscreen & Embroidery.
“We want them to grow in the job they have with us, and once they graduate the program, we help them secure their first job,” said Vozzo. “Having these certifications is the first step in getting potential employers to look past felony records and former gang involvement.”
The Homeboy Campus in Downtown Los Angeles houses Homegirl Café, a full service catering business, and is home to rehabilitation programs offering comprehensive therapy services, GED classes, and the tattoo removal service.
“It takes a huge amount of courage to say, ‘I want to leave the gang life.’ These folks are second and third generation gang members, with parents, aunts and uncles in gangs.” Vozzo said. “They have to make a decision to leave the lives they knew and start over. Once they start seeing that there’s a community here and that other people have made the transformation happen, they want to get to work.”
(WATCH the video below to see how it works) Photos courtesy of Homeboy Industries
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