Homeboy Industries, a nonprofit rehabilitation center for former Los Angeles gang members, is expanding, says the Christian Science Monitor. Founded 20 years ago by Father Gregory Boyle, a parish priest in the Boyle Heights neighborhood near downtown, the center opened a spacious new bakery and a training and job development center opened last week on the site where the old bakery burned down in a 1999 fire. The new building includes tattoo removal, counseling, and classes in financial literacy, decisions for healthy living, computer basics, anger management, and Alcoholics Anonymous.
In a county considered the U.S. gang capita, with 86,000 gang members, the facility represents a growing acceptance of a gang-control tactic that redirects youths, and that was reviled when it was first introduced. To Boyle, the idea was that controlling gangs needed to be about much more than police enforcement. Gangs are not a crime issue, Boyle says, but rather a social problem – perhaps even a community health issue. He points to a recent Los Angeles City Council study that found that in the past three decades the city has spent $50 billion to deal with the gang problem and now has six times as many gang members. Boyle holds to his maxim that “nothing stops a bullet like a job.”