Rev. Gregory Boyle
Founder and Executive Director, Homeboy Industries
Tuesday, June 7, 8:00 a.m.
Fr. Gregory Boyle has dedicated his life to helping Los Angeles' most marginalized individuals find a place in society's ranks. As the founder and CEO of Homeboy Industries, he has become a beacon of hope around the world, and was just selected as one of the White House Champions of Change.
Born in 1988, Homeboy Industries has its roots in the poorest community in Los Angeles. As a response to eight warring gangs, entrenched in two public housing projects (the largest grouping of public housing west of the Mississippi), Homeboy Industries grew "from below." "I buried my first young person killed because of this gang sadness in 1988. I buried my 194th three months ago," says Father G, as he is affectionately called on the streets.
A native Angelino, Fr. Boyle was ordained a Jesuit priest in 1984. He was transformed by his work in Bolivia, Mexico, and Folsom Prison with those who "live at the margins." His dedication to finding a place for all in our society brought him to the Boyle Heights community of East Los Angeles, where he served as pastor of Dolores Mission Church, then the poorest parish in the city, from 1986 through 1992.
It was there that Fr. Boyle started what would become Homeboy Industries, now the largest gang intervention, rehab and re-entry program in the world. 15,000 people a year enter their doors seeking transformation. As Father G puts it, "We are not for those who need help, only for those who want it. We don't just provide wrap-around services, but we are a ‘wrap-around community.' Community trumps gang. Only the light of a community of tenderness can illumine the dark, empty corners of one's shallow gang past. Homeboy Industries does not wag its finger at the gang member. It helps the gang member put his finger on it." Above all, Homeboy Industries announces a message: what if we were to invest in people rather than seek to futilely incarcerate our way out of a complex social dilemma?
As a nonprofit organization, Homeboy employs and trains hundreds of former gang-members every year in seven social enterprises, including Homeboy Silkscreen & Embroidery, Homeboy Bakery, Homeboy/Homegirl Merchandise, and Homegirl Café. Now located in Downtown Los Angeles, Homeboy also provides a path to change and free, critical services, such as tattoo removal (over 36,000 per year), GED programs, skills classes, etc. to people seeking a better life.
An acknowledged expert on gangs and intervention approaches, Fr. Boyle is a nationally renowned speaker. His presentations for leaders on hope as a powerful tool have made him a popular speaker with companies and healthcare organizations. He has given commencement addresses at numerous universities and has spoken at conferences for teachers, social workers, criminal justice workers and many others about the importance of adults' attention, guidance and unconditional love in preventing youth from joining gangs.