LA-based Homeboy Industries hopes its rehabilitation and education model can travel around the world.
The first thing a former gang member hoping to make a new life for himself might do is look for a place to get his tattoos removed. That’s how Malo, née Javier Medina, found his way to Homeboy Industries, the 27-year-old LA-based organization that gives former gang members another shot at contributing to their communities. But as Malo told VICE earlier this year, removing his tattoos was just the start.
“They found out I was a good cook and got me a job in the bakery,” Malo told VICE.
Turns out that bakery is just one of Homeboy Industries’ business ventures, which train, support and then often place their program participants in full-time jobs. (Other Homeboy businesses that hungry LA denizens might find interesting: City Hall’s Homeboy Diner, Homeboy’s farmers market booths, and Homegirl Café and Catering).
According to the organization, Homeboy Industries serves up to 1,000 former gang members per month. The LA organization says it enrolls over to 400 in their educational curricula, which include life skills classes like anger management and physical conditioning, but also more job-focused offerings, like GED tutoring and computer basics.
This week, the LA group goes decidedly international as it hosts the second annual gathering of the Global Homeboy Network, its worldwide offshoot. Attendees from six countries—Australia, Scotland, Mexico, Canada, South Africa, and the US—come together to discuss the specific mental health, law enforcement, mentorship, and educational issues facing former gang members from around the world.
Homeboy Industries headquarters in LA
“[T]he idea is to invite people with their own particularity. Glasgow is different from Guatemala City, is different from Wichita,” says Father Gregory Boyle, who founded Homeboy Industries and still heads the organization today.
But Boyle believes that all participants can learn from his LA program’s social innovation—and its success.
“You have to be willing and wanting to change, or else [the program] won’t work for you,” Malo, the gang member-turned-baker, told VICE. “I got tired of the gang life, the same routines, running the streets.”
Malo is set to begin a new job, his “first legit” one, at a Beverley Hills French bistro this year.