While visiting reentry programs and advocates in Los Angeles, we were very impressed by the model at Homeboy Industries. Homeboy Industries serves high-risk, formerly gang-involved and formerly incarcerated men and women with a continuum of free services and programs. Homeboy Industries also operates seven social enterprises that serve as job-training sites to program participants known as “trainees”. Their model of entrepreneurship and small business is an innovative way for supporting formerly incarcerated people in reentry. The model began because formerly incarcerated and formerly gang-involved men and women who had been working with Father Greg Boyle, their local priest and the founder of Homeboy Industries, were fed up – There are no jobs for us. Employers won’t hire us because of our tattoos or conviction histories. Everyone else sees our past as we are simply trying to move our lives forward. From these community concerns, the model of social enterprise at Homeboy Industries was born. Trainees work their way up through Homeboy’s social service programming to then gain entry level positions in maintenance and support at Homeboy, which can lead to to full-time positions at their social enterprises.
Homeboy Industries brings in a significant amount of their funding through the following 7 social enterprises:
- Homegirl Cafe & Catering
- Homeboy Farmers Markets
- Homeboy Diner
- Homeboy & Homegirl Merchandise
- Homeboy Bakery
- Homeboy Grocery
- Homeboy Silkscreen & Embroidery
During our visit, we had to try out the lunch at Homegirl Cafe & Catering at their site in the heart of L.A.’s Chinatown. This restaurant is the REAL DEAL—delicious food, high-quality ingredients, professional and respectful staff. Many of the servers and staff were kind enough to open up about their life paths that led them to Homeboy. If you’re in L.A., we can’t say it enough—Go to Homeboy. Eat tacos, salads, sandwiches, guacamole and salsa, and green juice at Homegirl Cafe & Catering. Get baked goods and espresso drinks from the Homeboy Bakery. Homeboy even sells their chips and salsa in grocery stores around L.A., has an online ordering system for the bakery, and has a stand at LAX Airport in American Airlines Terminal 4, so you can find their products in many places.
We are incredibly appreciative to Homeboy Industries staff and trainees in making our day there an incredibly meaningful one. We love the social enterprise model as a means for supporting formerly incarcerated people in reentry and creating new jobs. You can read more about the amazing impact Homeboy Industries has had on the Los Angeles community in the 2012 L.A. Times article, “Nurturing Hope,” available online. And if you weren’t already convinced to go in person, here’s a taste of the Homegirl Café lunch menu from Homeboy’s website (below). Thank you Homeboy!
— The R & R Team