Homeboy Industries reaches out: Los Angeles nonprofit offers gang member rehabilitation

Homeboy Industries reaches out: Los Angeles nonprofit offers gang member rehabilitation

Jillian Spaulding


The city: Los Angeles (LA). Will Lopez is 11 years-old. The time: dusk. A young boy walks home from school alone, as he does everyday because his father has been murdered. Every day, like clockwork, he passes the same lively street, the smell of burning gasoline and cigarettes in the air, a street with many people that have become a surrogate family for him. One day he decides he would like to make a little easy money: thus, his first purse-snatching occurs. He’s drawn in by the power and confidence. Fast forward two years, and he is “jumped in,” or initiated as a full-fledged gang member. Now, he is on the lively streets burning the cigarettes in the air.

Flash forward again, the once-young boy finds himself freshly out of an eight-year prison sentence, realizing the pain of crime and violence is too much for him as he looks at his newly pregnant wife. Lopez fears being in jail his child’s whole life. In an attempt to better their lives, he walks into Homeboy Industries, where Father Greg Boyle gives him the resources and faith he needs to change not only his life, but the life of his family.

In the 1980s, Father Greg Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries, was wrought with concern as LA saw drastic rises in gang membership and consequently gang-related violence. Starting with a small job program, Jobs for a Future, in 1988, the nonprofit Homeboy Industries was born. The name was coined in 2001 for an organization that helps former gang members take positive action towards leaving violence, addiction, and past incarcerations behind them. The charity believes its success is owed to an 80 – 20 balance between finding people jobs and helping them to attend therapeutic services, that, without insurance (like many Americans today) are far out of reach.

From their website, one can see not only their inspiring services (that includes 800 tattoo removal sessions, 140 legal appointments, and 400 students allowed to attend classes all on a monthly basis alone), but also their history, and future events that anyone can volunteer at. 

If you are reading about the services and wondering what you could do to be a part of this, even all the way in Whittier, you are in luck! Every year, Poets are led by Professor of Acting and Directing Gil Gonzalez in the annual Homeboy 5K Run. Fourth-year Emily Olague participated this past Saturday. “There were a lot of people . . . booths, music playing, and people pumping up the crowd . . . Overall, it was a really fun morning,” said Olague.

 Running the 5K is not the only way the Poet family has supported Homeboy Industries. In 2015, the first-year class was sent the book Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion written by Father Gregory Boyle himself. As the First-year speaker that year, Father Boyle went through his mission with students, as it was laid out in his book. “Though this book does not concern itself with solving the gang problem, it does aspire to broaden the parameters of kinship. It helps not only to put a human face on the gang member, but to recognize our own wounds in the broken lives and daunting struggles of the men and women in these parables.” His word is directed to showing all the good Homeboy Industries does, not only in helping redirect lives with its services, but how its existence stands as a symbol of hope and empathy to help change the world.

Although this year’s 5K has passed, Homeboy Industries functions year-round, and students interested can reach out to Gil Gonzalez at ggonzalez@whittier.edu as well as the organization itself at www.homeboyindustries.org.