How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

A new county contract for Homeboy Industries

Photo by teamperks/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Outside Homeboy Industries downtown, March 2008

I couldn't let the day slip by without noting the good news today for Homeboy Industries. After having to lay off 300 workers in May, the gang-intervention program that got its start 22 years ago in Boyle Heights has received a $1.3 million contract from Los Angeles County.

The contract was approved today by the county Board of Supervisors. It will allow the nonprofit program, an Eastside institution, to employ 20 job trainees and provide services to at-risk youth and young adults that include job placement, tattoo removal, legal services, job training and therapy, including mental health and substance abuse counseling, according to a story on KPCC.

The contract provides a new lifeline for Homeboy Industries, founded in 1988 by Father Gregory Boyle, a Jesuit priest. The program laid off the bulk of its workers in May, its finances hurt as local government redirected funding toward other gang-intervention programs and the recession ate into private donations. Its businesses stayed open - among them a cafe, a bakery, and a silk-screening shop - but volunteers were left to perform the re-entry services, which the country contract will now help cover.

Since the layoffs, thanks to donations, the organization has received donations totaling $3.5 million and about 100 people are again on the payroll, the Los Angeles Times reported today.

Boyle created the program while serving as pastor of Dolores Mission parish in Boyle Heights. Homeboy Industries grew from a small bakery set up in a warehouse across from Dolores Mission, intended to help teach job skills to at-risk youths to prepare them for permanent employment.

The Homeboy Bakery spawned a series of other businesses, including Homeboy Silkscreen, Homeboy Maintenance (landscaping and maintenance) Homeboy Merchandise (selling t-shirts and other items with the Homeboy logo), and the Homegirl Café. In 2007, after inhabiting a series of Boyle Heights locations, the organization moved west of the Los Angeles River to new headquarters north of Chinatown.

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