Homeboy Industries: Hope Has An Address
Homeboy Industries began when a concerned group of Angelenos, led by Father Gregory Boyle, asked a simple question: Can we improve the safety and health of our communities through jobs and education rather than through suppression and incarceration? In our 25 years providing services to Angelenos impacted by gang violence, we have learned that jobs, education and support services can indeed have a direct – and profound – impact on public safety. We have also learned that the success of our program corresponds directly with our ability to address the root causes of violence, alienation, and fear among communities and community members who are unsafe.
In this program, we propose to improve public safety through an integrated curriculum of ten classes that help end the intergenerational cycles of violence that many former gang members and recently incarcerated men and women have experienced. The classes and support groups we offer foster the personal transformation necessary for our clients to heal from their complex traumatic histories and prevent their children, families and communities from experiencing similar trauma.
400 individuals attend classes each month at Homeboy Industries’ headquarters. Classes in the curriculum are led by Homeboy Industries staff, licensed mental health clinicians, and qualified volunteers. The core classes impacting public safety include:
1) Anger Management: Provides our population with tools to develop healthy coping skills, build healthy relationships, and deal with conflict in non-violent ways.
2) Parenting: Provides parents, particularly young parents, with the skills and techniques to improve their relationships with their children and end the cycles of violence, abuse and neglect they may have experienced in their own childhood.
3) Project Fatherhood: Provides fathers an opportunity to connect with their children, play a meaningful role in their lives, and positively affect their children’s healthy development.
4) Baby & Me: A weekly meeting for parents and their young children that provides activities to strengthen secure attachment, increase parents’ empathy for and understanding of their children’s needs, and decrease the likelihood of abuse or neglect.
5) Leadership: A weekly class that helps participants build leadership skills, and discusses related topics of resiliency, forgiveness, character-building, loss, and separation.
6) Healthy Relationships for Women: A weekly class that helps women who have been victims of domestic and/or sexual violence develop healthy and safe relationship expectations and practices.
7) Domestic Violence Intervention for Women: A weekly group meeting that addresses domestic violence, helping batterers gain the tools and self-empowerment necessary to stop family violence and develop positive coping skills.
8) Domestic Violence Intervention for Men: A court-approved program for male batterers that teaches life skills to build healthy coping mechanisms and healthy relationships, and to encourage men to take responsibility for their acts of violence.
9) Healing Circle: A weekly meeting that provides space for reflection, empowerment, and respect while peers embrace the struggles in their lives and help each other find meaning in their past.
10) Substance Abuse: A 3-phase course offering bi-weekly group support meetings, these classes help clients establish and maintain long-term recovery from the addictions that often influence their involvement with gangs and crime.
Classes are available to trainees (men and women who are employed by Homeboy Industries in entry-level positions either at our organizational headquarters or in our social enterprise businesses) and to community clients (people impacted by gang violence, poverty and other issues who are not currently employed by Homeboy Industries).
The classes we offer complement the variety of other proven strategies we use to prevent violence and improve public safety. Homeboy Industries employs 200 trainees at all times (approximately 300 are employed throughout the year) at our organizational headquarters and our social enterprise businesses. As part of the job, trainees also:
• Attend practical, educational and vocational classes to earn high school degrees or GEDs and improve their employment readiness;
• Receive mental health and substance abuse treatment to address the underlying causes of their interactions with law enforcement and the criminal justice system;
• Undergo tattoo removal procedures to eliminate the external marks of their former involvement with gangs;
• Work individually with case managers and employment counselors to establish an educational and employment plan and transition successfully to outside work;
• Access much needed medical services.
All services are provided free of charge, and most are available to trainees and to community clients.
What are some of your organization’s most important achievements to date?
Homeboy Industries has provided hope, training and support to formerly gang involved and recently incarcerated men and women for 25 years. In that time, we have become the largest, most comprehensive and most successful gang prevention, intervention and rehabilitation organization in Los Angeles – if not the entire country.
Currently we provide the following services free of charge each month at Homeboy Industries:
• 200 men and women are employed in entry-level positions at our headquarters and in our social enterprise businesses, and all receive case management to stay on track with employment and educational goals;
• 120 trainees receive individual substance abuse and mental health counseling with licensed clinicians;
• 200 trainees and community clients receive employment counseling services;
• 400 trainees and community clients participate in our broad curriculum of practical, educational and vocational classes; and
• 750 trainees and community clients receive tattoo removal procedures.
Due to the breadth and impact of our services, Homeboy Industries was cited as a model program in a 2005 report by the CDC focusing on the ills accompanying gangs and gang violence. The report stressed that Homeboy, by focusing on intervention, serves a vital need and is instrumental in helping break the ongoing cycle of gang violence. The CDC has also endorsed job training programs as a youth violence prevention strategy. Related to, but distinct from traditional job training programs, they noted the importance of “social microenterprise,” as modeled by the small businesses of Homeboy.
Importantly, these services are far more cost effective than incarceration. The state and county spend $150,000-200,000 to incarcerate a minor for one year, and a high risk youth will cost society between $1.7 and $2.3 million over their lifetime. Likewise, incarceration of an adult for one year costs approximately $65,000. Employment and support services at Homeboy Industries, on the other hand, cost approximately $35,000 per trainee per year.
Perhaps our greatest achievement to date is the unparalleled level of support we have generated among community members and the unequaled level of trust we have achieved among those seeking our services. Homeboy Industries does not conduct formal outreach to current or former gang members. Rather, as a demonstration of their commitment to personal transformation, trainees and community clients reach in to us knowing that they will get the help they need.
Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.
Homeboy Industries benefits from strong collaboration and volunteer support in many areas of operation. Volunteer teachers will lead weekly classes and meetings of Healing Circle and Leadership. Baby & Me classes are facilitated by a multi-disciplinary team consisting of an LCSW/RN, an LCSW, an educational specialist, and a volunteer with experience in early education. USC and UCLA pediatric interns and residents often donate their time for consultation on health and wellness matters. Peace Over Violence, a Los Angeles-based sexual and domestic violence center, provides our Healthy Relationships for Women class. And Project Fatherhood classes are led by Dr. Edward Berumen and Jeffrey Williams, MFTI, of the Children’s Institute.
Please explain how you will evaluate your project. How will you measure success?
Homeboy Industries has had a singular impact on Los Angeles’ gang problem. Thousands of people have walked through the doors looking for a second chance. We measure our program’s impact on these individuals through an intake, assessment and follow-up process that addresses several key domains of safety, health and well-being. Specifically, we ask clients to report on recidivism (number of arrests or other interactions with law enforcement), housing stability (current living situation and longevity of residence), social connectedness (level and frequency of participation in pro-social and group support activities), substance abuse (frequency of use and its impact on their wellbeing), and child custody/reunification (progress toward family reunification and/or resolution of legal custody issues).
Homeboy Industries also assesses clients’ overall progress through evaluation of: disaffiliation with gang membership and involvement; acquisition of the right attitude and skills to secure success in mainstream employment; getting and keeping a job; and acquisition of advanced education and/or skills. The senior staff meets monthly to evaluate the program and the particular trainees, successes are shared, problems are raised and solutions proposed. In addition to daily supervision, Case Managers meet individually with clients to set personal goals, offer encouragement and praise for their successes, and guidance for the areas that may need improvement. The individual trainees at Homeboy’s businesses are closely monitored and evaluated on attendance, behavior and work performance on a regular basis.
UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs Professors Jorja Leap and Todd Franke are leading a five-year program evaluation of Homeboy Industries. The evaluation draws upon both quantitative and qualitative measures to chart individual and organizational outcomes.
After four years the following preliminary outcomes have emerged:
• 70% of Homeboy trainees do not return to incarceration;
• Homeboy experiences a recidivism/loss rate of 30% of its trainees; and
• Of those who leave Homeboy due to incarceration, substance abuse or other reasons, 12% have returned to Homeboy.
These figures are particularly significant when compared with a national retention rate of 20% to 30% for most gang/prisoner intervention and re-entry programs. In California, more than 70% of young offenders will return to prison within three years; Homeboy Industries effectively flips this number on its head, demonstrating that our service model helps transform their lives and become contributing members of their communities.
Evaluators have briefed the U.S. Department of Justice, the National Institute of Justice, U.S. Congress, the California Governor’s Office, Los Angeles Mayor’s office, Los Angeles Police Department, Los Angeles County Sheriff, LAUSD, CDC and World Health Organization.
How will your project benefit Los Angeles?
With more than 1,000 gangs and an estimated 100,000 gang members, Los Angeles County is the gang capital of the world. The City of Los Angeles is spotted with large areas of concentrated poverty where many of these gangs operate and where crime levels are higher than the city-wide average. Many of the clients we serve at Homeboy Industries live in neighborhoods where elevated levels of poverty and violence negatively impact public safety, public health, and perceptions of human vulnerability.
Providing our clients with productive alternatives to involvement in gangs can dramatically improve their safety and the overall wellbeing of their families and communities. Because of the transformative power education has on healing and public safety, Homeboy Industries Education and Curriculum Department adapts traditional and alternative learning strategies to better serve men and women whose lives and communities have been impacted by poverty, violence, incarceration, and separation from their families. We provide hope through education and co-create a solid foundation based on kinship and reciprocation. By using these strategies and imbuing our clients with hope, rather than despair, we help them make safer decisions, lead healthier lives, and become assets to the safety of their communities.
This curriculum is integrated with Homeboy Industries’ comprehensive model of gang intervention services, and impacts several of the other indicators in the LA2050 challenge.
• Education: The classes we offer also help improve the educational attainment of our clients. Many who come to us without high school diplomas earn a degree or a GED with our help. Homeboy Industries also partners with Learning Works Charter High School to provide gang-impacted youth with a supportive environment in which to earn high school diplomas.
• Income and Employment: We provide on-the-job training to 300 people each year. Through this training, men and women who had little work experience and few job skills are able to receive training, achieve industry-recognized credentials, build resume-writing and interviewing skills, and receive support in finding jobs outside of Homeboy Industries.
• Health: Homeboy Industries provides free basic medical services for clients and community members, and helps them get enrolled in health insurance plans. We also provide free mental health, substance abuse and psychiatric counseling.
• Environmental Quality: Among our most successful programs is the Solar Panel Installation Training & Certification Program. Through this program, community clients receive a state- and nationally-recognized certification in a growing field that has the potential to improve the health and well-being of the city and their own communities.
In everything we do, Homeboy Industries connects people to one another and works collectively to transform individual lives, families, and the city we call home.
What would success look like in the year 2050 regarding your indicator?
Gangs and gang violence are the result of a nexus of complex social issues, including poverty, lack of educational opportunities, addictive and mental health disorders, scarce job opportunities, and traumatic events in the lives of gang members. To tackle this problem, we provide comprehensive wrap-around services to address the clients’ needs and help them redirect their lives to become contributing members of society. Through this program, we will provide education and support that is crucial to ending the intergenerational cycles of violence that plague many poor and underserved neighborhoods across Los Angeles.
Success in the year 2050 would mean families and communities where violence, fear and vulnerability no longer predominate. Homeboy Industries presents a vision of that possible future. As our Founder, Father Gregory Boyle, writes: “We are a worksite and therapeutic community. We are a training program and business. Once the homies come to feel some confidence in the workplace, they can move on to higher-paying opportunities elsewhere. Also, we give homies a chance to work with their enemies. The place has become the ‘United Nations’ of gangs. When enemies work with one another, a valuable ‘disconnect’ is created on the streets. It forces a fellow active gang member to ask the employed homie, ‘How can you work with that guy?’ Answering that question will be awkward, clumsy, and always require courage, but the question itself jostles the status quo.”
Success in the year 2050 would also mean a Los Angeles that is not a grid of neighborhoods locked in cycles of conflict and violence, but an ever-widening circle of compassion and kinship – “not serving the other, but being one with the other.” To quote Father Boyle again, “We imagine no one standing outside of that circle, moving ourselves closer to the margins so that the margins themselves will be erased. We stand there with those whose dignity has been denied. We locate ourselves with the poor and the powerless and the voiceless. At the edges, we join the easily despised and the readily left out. We stand with the demonized so that the demonizing will stop. We situate ourselves right next to the disposable so that the day will come when we stop throwing people away.”
If we jostle the status quo for long enough, if we move ourselves to the margins, if we stand with the demonized and the powerless and voiceless, then we can redefine our communities as places where hope, compassion and kinship predominate, and where families feel safe and secure.