Are you familiar with Homeboy Industries? The organization is well known in Los Angeles but has developed a national profile for their innovative work serving high-risk, formerly gang-involved men and women, providing them services, programs, and job training at several very cool social enterprises. They’ve got products you can find in grocery stores (tortilla strips, salsas, and more), a restaurant and bakery (Homegirl Cafe), catering business that serves many film and TV studios, and now a food truck.
The model is great and the popularity makes their considerable reach grow more and more. A busy, bustling restaurant (which Homegirl Cafe DEFINITELY was last time I was there) is much better on-the-job training than a sleepy lunch counter. The gourmet food truck is new and already has fans following the social media feeds to discover where they will park and set up from day to day, inspiring buzzy word-of-mouth.
The job training at these great businesses is just the most forward facing element of the work the organization does. They also provide employment counseling and mentoring, tattoo removal (they remove about 745 tattoos every month, for free), case management to develop goal planning and accountability, legal services and referrals, educational services and classes, mental health/substance abuse/domestic violence services, and a solar panel installation and certification training program.
There are plenty of reasons young people step into gang life, but one of the most pernicious is the lack of alternatives. Homeboy Industries provides a rich array of opportunities to delve deeply into other options.
Volunteers keep much of this amazing work going…some of the most rewarding opportunities are GED course prep teachers and tutors, tattoo removal (30 volunteer doctors currently help out with this critical area), and Homeboy Heals program volunteer therapists, social workers, and counselors. Check it out, and jump in if you’ve got the skills needed.