Homeboy Industries was founded by Father Greg Boyle in 1988 to provide a place where at-risk youth, former gang members and recently incarcerated men and women start anew. There are many aspects to Homeboy Industries from the Homegirl Cafe and garden, a retail shop, the Homeboy Bakery, tattoo removal, counseling, legal services, job training and much more. And most importantly, it provides a safe place where rival gang members work side by side with one another cooking food, creating products and making positive change in the world. It’s not just a place full of hope, but it actually makes a difference. The national recidivism rate (relapse into crime) is 70%, but for those part of the Homeboy community, 70-90 percent NEVER get re-arrested. Homeboy is working.
When I first walked into the bustling Homegirl Cafe in Boyle Heights, the smell of fresh bread and baked goods greeted me as I walked through the glass doors. I immediately sensed a feeling of gratitude from everyone working in the cafe and bakery. It was palpable.
The cafe is beautifully designed with high ceilings, mosaic tiles, colorful artwork and framed newspaper clippings and photographs on the walls. The staff was smiling and the patrons seemed happy and content. I met Sarah Leone, a master gardener and manager of the garden that supplies the cafe and bakery. Thirty percent of the food is from the Homegirl organic garden.
The mission of Homegirl Cafe is to “grow, prep and serve.” They grow everything from cilantro, rosemary, sugar snap peas to cucumber, heirloom tomatoes, squash and more. All of these vegetables are used in the cafe and oftentimes inspire the menu specials.
In this series, you’ll meet some of the Homeboy family, hear their stories and learn about their organic garden.
In Part I, Gabriel takes us on a tour of Homeboy Industries.
If you enjoyed this story, please comment below and visit the Homeboy Industries website to learn more.