Jobs not Jails: Homeboy Industries

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Jobs not Jails: Homeboy Industries

United States
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Homeboy is a beacon of hope for those seeking to leave gang life, and for whom there is no other chance to enter the mainstream.

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Plot your innovation within the mosaic of solutions
Which of these barriers is the primary focus of your work?

Culture/environment of conflict exposes and enlists young men in violence

Which of the principles is the primary focus of your work?

Create credible choices and opportunities

If you believe some other barrier or principle should be included in the mosaic, please describe it and how it would affect the positioning of your initiative in the mosaic:

Offers stability and safety without judgement.

Homeboy assists the most disenfranchised segment of our community, at-risk and formerly gang-involved youth, parolees, the under-educated and poor, to become contributing members of society through a continuum of services in response to their multiple needs. Free programs -- including counseling, education, tattoo removal, job training and job placement -- enable young people to redirect their lives and provide them with hope for their futures.

Describe your program or new idea in one sentence.

Homeboy is a beacon of hope for those seeking to leave gang life, and for whom there is no other chance to enter the mainstream.

What makes your initiative uniquely positioned to create change in your community?

Homeboy Industries was cited as a model in a 2005 report by the Centers for Disease Control (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 by, for example:
o Keeping gang-involved youth from perpetrating or being victimized by new acts of violence;
o Mitigating harm from past occurrences of violence; and
o Preventing youth gang involvement among the children of gang-involved young parents.

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.

Homeboy is also uniquely positioned to create change due to its ability to reach across all gang lines.

Describe how you organize and carry out your work?

In addition to providing job training and placement assistance and other free programs, a distinctive feature of Homeboy Industries is its small businesses, where the most difficult to place individuals are hired in transitional jobs, thus giving them a safe, supportive environment in which to learn both concrete and soft job skills, while simultaneously building their resume and work experience. While employed in one of our businesses, clients are also enrolled in our support services -- including counseling, tattoo removal, and curriculum classes.

What is your plan to scale and expand your innovation into your community and beyond?

Homeboy Industries began as a jobs program in Dolores Mission church, offering alternatives to gang violence in one of the toughest neighborhoods in the city. It has since grown into a national model, and in 2008, will celebrate its 20th anniversary.

What other resources, institutional, or policy needs would be necessary to help sustain and scale up your idea?

Homeboy is currently undergoing a self-evaluation to assess policy changes implemented as part of our recent expansion. Given that we are already operating at capacity, we realize we will soon need to face an additional expansion and a significant broadening of our services. Needs would include transitional housing, and certification and accreditation for our courses to enable us to better provide real options for the at-risk and gang-involved youth who are striving to make profound change.

Describe your impact in one sentence, commenting on both the individual and community levels.

Re-directing lives strengthens not only the individual, but also that person’s family, providing a more constructive, healthy environment for their children.

What impact has your work achieved to date?

Homeboy Industries has had an important impact on Los Angeles’ gang problem. Thousands of young people have walked through the doors looking for a second chance. Gang affiliations are left outside as these young people work together, side by side, learning the mutual respect that comes from shared tasks and challenges. Homeboy Industries was cited as a model in a 2005 report by the Centers for Disease Control (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, providing a vital service to at-risk young men.

Number of individuals served

During 2006, over 3,400 tattoo removal treatments were performed, and WIN served 61 young people. Additionally, 68 were served in mental health counseling, with 465 treatments, for an average of almost seven visits per client. We are very proud of the retention rate of our clients, and believe that the consistency and repeat nature of the visits speak to the need and effectiveness of this program; Employment Counselors saw over 1,500 unduplicated clients in 2006. On average, each client makes 3-4 visits to an Employment Counselor in an effort to create a strong resume, develop interview skills, and seek an appropriate employer match. This means our Employment Counselors had over 6,000 visits in the past year. Additionally, counselors were able to make direct placements in outside employment for 226 people.

Community impact

By offering multi-level solutions, we recognize that leaving gang life is a process, and that re-directing lives in a positive direction strengthens not only the individual, but also that person’s family, enabling them to be leaders and role models themselves. In so doing, they are also providing a more constructive, healthy environment for their children, and strengthening their communities.

Society at large

By seeking to address the root causes of gang violence, Homeboy Industries creates opportunities so that at-risk youth can plan their futures and not their funerals. Former gang members from across the county have found their way to us to take advantage of our numerous services. As Homeboy has become a national model of serving at-risk young men, our most important success is that Homeboy Industries offers a place of community and support amidst a lethal absence of hope.

What measure do you use to gauge your impact and why?

Homeboy Industries evaluates client progress in a number of systematic ways. The primary issues addressed through evaluation are: 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.

Our impact on the community at large can be seen through the changes in local and state policy towards encouraging intervention rather than supression, and an overall reduction of gang-related crime in LA.

How is your initiative currently being financed and how would you finance further expansion and/or replication?

Homeboy has a strong and diverse funding base, including private foundations, individual donors, and limited government funding. Our business model anticipates that our hands-on job-trianing businesses will earn revenue that will both cover their own expenses and generate revenue that will help offset the ever-expanding free programs and services.

Provide information on your current finances and organization:

a.) Annual Budget: $3.8 million in 2006 b.) annual revenue: $3.8 million c.) sources of revenue: earned income (sales from businesses) -- $1 million; private foundations - $1 million; individual contributions - $1 million; government grants - $350,000; capital campaign underwriting - $450,000.

Number of staff: Administrative staff: 32 Hands-on Job Training positions: 150

Who are your potential partners and allies?

As we have moved from a neighborhood program to a city organization and national model, we are pleased that our circle of supporters has continued to grow as well. We work with the Sheriff's Department, the Department of Mental Health, the State of California Department of Juvenile Justice, and numerous local non-profit organizations.

Who are your potential investors?

We have continued to secure support from a wide range of donors. As we have generated increased media attention, we have been able to reach more national donors and foundations. Further, as our support services have become more conplrehensive, we have been able to reach additional foundations with targeted interests.

The Story
What is the origin of this innovation? Tell us your story.

Homeboy Industries traces its roots to “Jobs For A Future” (JFF), a program created in 1988 by Father Gregory Boyle while he was serving as pastor of Dolores Mission parish in Boyle Heights. Due to its growing success, Homeboy Industries eventually separated from Proyecto Pastoral, becoming an independent non-profit organization in August of 2001, governed by a volunteer board and led by trained staff.

Please provide a personal bio. Note this may be used in Changemakers marketing material.

Father Boyle was born in Los Angeles, California. He received his M.A. of Divinity from the Weston School of Theology, and a Sacred Theology Masters from the Jesuit School of Theology. He is a member of the State Commission on Juvenile Justice and serves on the Advisory Board for the National Youth Gang Center. He is an expert on gangs and intervention approaches, and a nationally sought speaker, as well as consultant to youth service and governmental agencies, policy-makers, and employers.