2021 Grants Challenge

Care First, Jails Last: Workforce Development and Healing for Formerly Incarcerated or Gang Involved Angelenos

Homeboy Industries seeks to change the way the world views, treats, and judges the most marginalized and demonized – formerly gang involved and incarcerated men, women, and youth. Our core program, the 18-month reentry program, is at the heart of our work, and delivers comprehensive wrap around services and job training through a trauma informed, healing focused lens. At Homeboy, those who are formerly gang involved or previously incarcerated, regardless of background, can get the help needed to find the best version of themselves.


In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

East LA

County of Los Angeles

City of Los Angeles

What is the problem that you are seeking to address?

LA County is home to the nation’s largest jail system; each year, over 163,000 individuals pass through and 45,000 people are paroled. When systems-involved Angelenos return to their communities, they face a barrier-steeped environment preventing successful reentry, fueling recidivism, and impacting gang involvement. COVID-19 has also led to significant entry-level job loss and financial difficulties after more than one million jobs evaporated from LA County at the onset of the pandemic. Homeboy welcomes those who have no other options. Our clients have undiagnosed mental health issues including depression, anxiety, PTSD, and mood disorders. Many have histories of intimate partner violence and sexual abuse and ALL have experienced neglect, violence, trauma, and abject poverty. As the majority of our clients have never held a job nor completed any formal training and less than half have graduated from high school, finding financial stability through employment is even more difficult.

Describe the project, program, or initiative that this grant will support to address the problem identified.

Homeboy is the largest and preeminent gang rehabilitation and reentry program in the world. For 33+ years, we have offered an “exit ramp” for those stuck in a cycle of violence and incarceration, helping them develop the strength and skills to transform their lives. Homeboy serves people who other agencies will not serve. We are known, in our community, as the go-to resource for gang-involved and formerly incarcerated people seeking sanctuary and a community of hope, compassion, kinship, and an opportunity to change. Individuals come through our doors on their own, and we have a strong word-of-mouth referral network, demonstrating how deeply rooted Homeboy’s programming is in our community. Our core program is a paid, therapeutic 18-month reentry program that offers wraparound supportive services designed to heal formerly incarcerated or gang-involved individuals and provide education and employment opportunities that lead to stability and self-sufficiency. Each year, we support 300 men, women, and youth seeking to address the complex issues of gang involvement, recidivism, unemployment, and complex trauma through comprehensive wraparound services. Within the 18-month reentry program, we provide income, therapeutic services, education, and employment through a community of acceptance and growth. At the center of the model is a set of social enterprises, where clients learn essential jobs skills, while working in vibrant, economically viable social enterprise businesses.

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Expand existing project, program, or initiative

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct Impact: 4,400

Indirect Impact: 17,600

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

We are on the verge of establishing a new paradigm in LA County – Care First, Jails Last – that will set a precedent for what is possible when we acknowledge the fundamental dignity and worth of communities that have frequent contact with the criminal justice system. Our theory of change for the successful reentry of offenders has long differed from existing methods because it is anchored in kinship, seeing and serving the whole person, and building relationships via those with lived experience as part of the healing process. Homeboy’s impact is most clearly seen in the transformation of people like Keith, who arrived after his parole officer recommended the program. He says of Homeboy, I've had time to evolve…I've done things I never thought I could achieve in my life. I've been working with [one of our social enterprises] for two months. I like that I get to interact with different individuals from all over the world that come inside the store…I enjoy telling my story to them.""

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

At intake, Homeboy collects data on our trainees throughout their participation in the program. We have a payroll system and a client management system where we cross tabulate job and program variables. We track job data such as length of time of employment, average hours worked, wage rate and growth, scheduling, and retention. We have developed a Work Maturity instrument to track learning on the job and employee engagement as well as potential for mobility. Employment Development Plans are written in the first three months of employment and re-visited quarterly. In 2020 we had the following results in our workforce development program for formerly gang-involved and incarcerated individuals: 476 received occupational skills and work readiness training 205 received basic adult education College readiness and support services were extended to 74 clients 10 received a Solar professional certification and a job in the industry 154 participants secured a job as a result of our services.

Which of the CREATE metrics will you impact?​

Income inequality

Economic opportunities for formerly incarcerated

Unemployment rate

Indicate any additional LA2050 goals your project will impact.

LA is the healthiest place to LIVE