Father Gregory Boyle is the face of the multi-million Homeboy Industries operation in Los Angeles that exists to give reformed gang members a way to work side by side with rivals and heal.
“’Women work things out face‑to‑face, and guys work things out shoulder-to-shoulder.’ That’s my experience in the bakery,” Boyle says. “Enemy rivals will work side by side making croissants or something. They’re not talking stuff out, but they are working stuff out. I don’t know how it works, but before you know it, there’s a bond deeper than they’ve ever known in their gang and stronger than anything they’ve even known in their families.”
Homeboy Industries, which he has run since 1992, helps 15,000 people a year with jobs and social services. To keep the $17 million effort afloat, Boyle must raise $11 million a year. The remaining $6 million comes from revenue produced by the enterprises, including Homeboy Bakery and Homegirl Catering.
This is our interview with Boyle.
Q. How many enterprises in Homeboy Industries? How do you decide what to add?
We have nine enterprises. We decide in a very haphazard way - stuff comes to us; we throw it against the wall to see if it sticks. Sometimes it does, sometimes not so much (Homeboy Plumbing).
Q. It’s interesting to me that you view the living and working together at the worksites as more important than the profit they create. What do you see happening between rival people?
We are all called to create a community of kinship such that God would recognize it. Enemies, rivals working side by side...invite the rest of the world to more fully inhabit what we are all called to become: One.
Q. Do you find that people graduate from needing Homeboy Industries as a worksite? Or do they tend to stay on?
Ours is an 18-month training program, so folks move on. If they surrender and cooperate with us, then they engage in the essential, foundational healing that happens at HBI in 18 months. Then they move on. We help them find employment beyond us. By this time, they are resilient. The world will indeed throw whatever it wants at them, but this time, they won't be toppled by it.
Q. I was struck by how much money you have to raise a year. Is Homeboy Industries growing in the number of people it serves? Can you give some statistics on the growth?
It is a lot of money to raise each year. One day, we will be endowed like any animal shelter in our country. Fifteen thousand folks a year walk through our doors, wanting to have their hearts altered and to move beyond the minds they have.
Q. Have enterprises in other cities modeled work on what you have been doing for more than two decades?
We have the Global Homeboy Network, 46 programs modeled on HBI in the U.S. and six outside the country. We gather every August to share stories and best practices with our "partners."
Q. When you have time to think about this work, what does it mean in your soul?
HMI has helped me to decide to live in other people's hearts. The Christ in me recognizing the Christ in them.
Q. What good comes of speaking to Christians in distant cities?
We need to speak, as Pope Francis says, of the "Joy of the Gospel." It IS where the joy is. It is joy's location. It would seem important to speak to that everywhere.