Beginning with a bakery, Father Greg Boyle provided jobs for gang members in order to help wave them from a path of self-destruction and violence. Starting Homeboy Industries in 1992, Boyle has now worked with gang members for 25 years. This project has been a “privilege” in his life. He helps gang members find jobs and “restore their life,” though some people have “relapsed” and returned to old neighborhoods.
Today, the project also includes Home Girl Café. The bakery is still in operation. Homeboy Industries is the largest gang intervention program.
“At-risk kids don’t lack information, they lack hope,” Boyle said. The biggest misconception, he said, is that people believe adolescents do not know, when in reality it is that they do not care.
Intervention programs attempt to tell kids they will likely go to jail if not get killed by continuing the path they are on.
Making visits to juvenile dentition centers, Boyle hands out his card to youths. This is one step he takes in order to allow them to find Homeboy Industries if they want to turn around their lives.
Boyle keeps track of his past employees and former gang members that he has seen put six feet under. Last month he buried his 174th.
By “telling the truth” which Boyle says is “all the same truth” he says: “No bullet can pierce it, no four prison walls can keep it out.” His motto for Homeboy Industries is “a job can stop a bullet.”
The industry also provides free gang tattoo removal. This service began 17 years ago. It started with a doctor who offered to remove a tattoo of “f*** the world” from someone’s forehead. He gave several sessions of a free hour of tattoo removal until it was removed completely. After this, the man was able to find a job working in security.
Finding jobs would help gang members improve their life style choices, and allow them to earn money in a legitimate manor. Boyle laughed as he said they “searched for felony-friendly employments” before creating jobs having gang members work for him.
“I want to remind you we’re in this world together,” Father Boyle said. “There is no us or them, it’s us.”
Homeboy Industries is “aiming to bridge the distance that separates” people in the world. He is willing to meet people halfway. Boyle aims for “mutantility” between all as they develop their kinship.
“No kinships, no justice,” said Boyle. “No kinship, no peace.”
Boyle explained that the gang members that work for him are from rival gangs. He said gang members who used to shoot at each other now work the same shift together.
Giving gang members jobs helps build their resumes before they can find an employer that will hire them with their criminal records.
Despite their pasts, Boyle believes everyone is “exactly what God intended for them to be.”
After a gang member served his second sentence, he claimed “this time would be different.” This is something Boyle normally hears gang members say.
For this one in particular, after his first week on the job, he was proud to receive a paycheck, proof of having a job and making a change in his life. With having a job, he said his kids would not be embarrassed about him, and his parents told him that they were proud.
“As you stand at the margins with demonizing, people may tell you that you’re wasting your time . . .” Boyle said. He believes that even if he does not alter someone else’s life, they make a great impact on his.
He recognizes that “these kids lack hope.” He said they cannot picture their futures and do not care if they inflict harm on themselves or others. It would not matter if they dodged a bullet or not.
“No hopeful kid joins a gang,” Boyle said.
When asked why people risk death and prison, he tells them that it’s “because they don’t care.”
He recalled offering to help a young kid several times, one who had refused. Fifteen years later, he would come to Boyle for help, telling him that he was tired of being tired.
This man asked Boyle to bless his daughter before she left for college. Boyle was the only person he and his wife knew that had graduated from college.
Boyle told him he was “proud of the man he chose to be, the steps he took.” Before this man got married with children and a stable home, people in his life had told him he was good for nothing.’
Throughout the night, Boyle repeated ideas of visions and telling stories that lead to mutual feelings occurring throughout a situation. His vision ended up being to help gang members.
He gave an example of a drug addict coming to his office as he was leaving for an event. She began crying, saying she was a disgrace.
He had “mistaken her for an interruption” while she stood there crying, saying she had wanted to stop using drugs since the day she started. He believed this was a mutual feeling between the two.
“We all have visions,” Boyle said. “If it interrupts [our lives], wait for it . . . .”
Boyle would like projects to include housing, instead of just concentrating on providing jobs. He considers housing to be the “next frontier.”
He has helped people pay first and last month’s rent for an apartment. Many gang members live in their care, as homelessness is high among them.
Ginger Rae Dunbar is a fourth-year student majoring in English with a minor in journalism. She can be reached at RD655287@wcupa.edu.