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On Point In California With Homeboy Industries

We go to Southern California to look at the gang life, the inner city economy and the story of  Homeboy Industries.

Father Gregory Boyle hugs Robert Trejo, a former gang member, in his office at Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles. (AP)

Father Gregory Boyle hugs Robert Trejo, a former gang member, in his office at Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles. (AP)

Homeboy Industries is a place for young Angelinos to find a path away from crime and trouble. As well as a place for gang members, at-risk youth, to get some tattoos removed and some anger management classes.  But most of all, it is a place to get a job.

Lorretta Andrews, The Rev. Greg Boyle, On Point's Tom Ashbrook and Robin Alvarez on stage at On Point's live show at member station KCLU in Santa Barbara, Calif. (Geoffrey McQuilkin/On Point)

Lorretta Andrews, The Rev. Greg Boyle, On Point's Tom Ashbrook and Robin Alvarez on stage at On Point's live show at member station KCLU in Santa Barbara, Calif. (Geoffrey McQuilkin/On Point)

Over twenty years, it’s put people to work in the Homeboy Bakery, the Homegirl Café, Homeboy Silkscreen and Homeboy Maintenance. It’s been a national model.

Then came the real economic meltdown.

This hour, On Point: a special edition from southern California with Homeboy Industries founder, Father Gregory Boyle.

-Tom Ashbrook

Guests:

Father Greg Boyle, Jesuit priest and director and founder of Homeboy Industries, which assists at-risk, recently released, and formerly gang involved youth to become contributing members of their communities in Los Angeles, California.

Robin Alvarez, former gang member and father of three. He works for Homeboy Industries.

Lorretta Andrews, mother of four. She served time in prison and now works for Homeboy Industries.

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  • Zeno

    DOH! Wrong audio. It’s the CIA cooking school audio.

  • http://richardsnotes.org Richard

     I’m looking forward to this show. Brilliant idea, we need more Greg Boyles in the world.

    • g, Buffalo, NY

      The problem with generating more “Greg Boyles” is that people aren’t willing to risk everything, their lives, their families, their future for others. It’s not worth it to them, because it comes at a high price.
      I can have a good house, car, wardrobe, be able to go out to eat, LCD, etc, that comes with a good job, versus dedicating your life in service to others.

      When it comes to the pursuit of personal happiness, material and physical possessions and financial gains is what drives the individuals in our country. Hail Capitalism!

      How many people even volunteer?!

      But yes, I agree, we need more “Father Boyles”.

      And thank you, Father G, for giving the work you do. You are an inspiration!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_VDH4GYJMIUFU373W3XUQVD2V4E Patrick

    We know what has caused the gang culture: our black-market from drug prohibition.  I guess we still haven’t learned from the 1920s.  For shame!

  • Boston mom

    I think that’s an oversimplification, Patrick, though illegal drugs are certainly a component. This is a cycle of poverty and crime and as Father Boyle says, hopelessness, that marginalizes huge populations of people and children in our country. There are people (and children) who are basically living in a warlike situation in their communities. In America. Thanks for doing this show, I hope people listen.

    • Curtis

       Judging from some of these comments, it appears that people have listened, but some of them haven’t heard. 

  • Michael

    Great show, thanks onpoint and thanks to your guest.   

  • g, Buffalo, NY

    Hi,
    This reminds me of Bill Stricklan’s work in Pittsburgh.
    Fascinating people and stories.

    It always makes me wonder how we can replicate their success in other cities. I am not sure if there is anything similar exists here in Buffalo, NY, but I am sure every city/neighborhood can use a center like this.

    What can we do?
    Would Father Greg be willing to “franchise”?

  • Mulllips

    What’s the average literacy level of gang members when they seek out support from homeboy industries? 

    • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

       Listen to the former gang members who are guests of this program.  There’s your answer.

      • Anonymous

        While it’s clear that both of the guests have some problems with language and they also might have literacy issues, they are working and making huge changes in their lives. I for one think these are very brave people who are at least trying. Greg can you do anything other than knock everything down to the level of a pile of cow dung?  

        • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

           Did I do that?  The question was about the degree of literacy of the gang members.  I’m glad that they’re trying to escape gang life, but that’s only one part of a successful life.

          • Curtis

             Yes, you did do that.  Everything you’ve written about this program is arrogant, ignorant and judgmental.   No wonder kids end up in gangs.

          • Lillian

            Speaking from personal experience in working with these young men while they are in detention camps;many are literate and can pass the G.E.D and have gone on to school. There are some that are enrolled in college, so to question the ‘degree of lietracy of the gang memebrs’; while some do not know how to read there are many that know how to read and that are very sharp,they just need the right support system to help guide them in the right direction

    • Curtis

       Your question is stupefying.  This is a rhetorical question, right?  Please tell me that this is a rhetorical question.

  • Melissa Hudson5

     What support does Father Boyle receive from his diocese?  

  • Kristina S.

    It sounds like the source of the problem for kids getting involved with gangs, is because gang life is the primary example they are shown.  How does society change that example to show kids how to have a positive lifestyle? 

    • Curtis

       Did you really listen to this program?  These kids are born into poverty.  They grow up in poor urban neighborhoods.  They are born into dysfunctional families.  They don’t see a lot of choices.  They aren’t born into middle class suburban families whose images of themselves permeate the dominate culture.  They join gangs to find something to belong to, like other people join a church. 

      How does society change?  Not in anyway that is going to be beneficial to the thousands of newly born children into poverty and dysfunction.  Not here.  Not in the United States.  We don’t care enough to make any of the necessary changes.

      • Kristina S.

        So is poverty and dysfuntion inevitable for our society and we shouldn’t even discuss how to break the cycle and provide other opportunities for these kids?

        As long as the republicans have influence, we will continue to ignore these problems. 

        • Anonymous

          Why do folks always rely on ‘society’ to give them something? Do you think other countries actually hand out things to their citizens. Of course not, travel Kristina and you will see. When it comes right down to it, you make yourself what you want out of life. If you chose to be hungry, or not clothe that’s you choice, its not societys call to give me anything. You yourself ‘break’ the cycle, If your parents don’t show you love growing up, then you change it with your children! If you didn’t have enough to eat, then find a way to bring home more groceries by working extra hours, or plant a garden. Fend for yourself! If you lived in any other country you would have to do these simple things in life, believe me.

      • http://libraryomega.blogspot.com/ Spekkio

        A lot of your comments here start with some sort of accusation about whether or not someone listened to the program before commenting. I wonder if you couldn’t give people the benefit of the doubt.

        For what it’s worth, I think Kristina *did* listen to the program, and her question (“How does society change that example to show kids how to have a positive lifestyle?”) is a good one.

        Kristina, if you didn’t hear it already, check out the program On Point did back in January about the harm that income inequality may do to societies.
        http://onpoint.wbur.org/2011/01/27/inequality-societies

        The book mentioned on the program, “The Spirit Level,” is excellent – so if you haven’t already, borrow it from your friendly neighborhood public library (or purchase it, if you’re so inclined). And I share your concern about the relatively new libertarian streak in our politics.

    • Anonymous

      Hi Kristina,
      Parents have to be ever present in a childs life, always! Show the child love and discipline equally, tell the child often how much they are loved, and show them other ways to live a good life. The children get into gangs bez of lack of parents present, and lack of love…its quite sad. Then despair over takes them, hope escapes them, and they feel there is no tomorrow. So, it starts right at birth and beyond, love your children in all ways. They are a ‘gift’ from GOD, if you don’t …then he will and does take his children back home to him.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Melissa-Hudson/675895742 Melissa Hudson

     What financial support does Father Boyle receive from his diocese and from the community?

    • Kahaninboys

      thats my questions as well, and notice “it’s one that DOES NOT get addressed”

  • BHA in Vermont

    It is great that Reverend Boyle is doing, has been doing, this. Is there some way to get something similar into the prisons? I have never spent time in prison so I have little knowledge. There is the classic ‘license plate’ making job and but DO the prisons have REAL work study programs? Skills people can use to get jobs outside? I know that doesn’t erase the stigma of ex-con but coming out with skills has got to be the most valuable thing, both to take care of their monetary needs and to prove to themselves they CAN do something besides gang activities.

  • Don Stacy

    My name is Don Stacy from Spokane, Washington.  I have two questions for young Mr Alvarez.

    Between the time you were 13 years old, on through until you were 18 and 19, after hearing someone call you a cobarde (coward), what did you do?

    And my second question, Mr Alvarez.  From your daughter’s point of view which she may hold when she’s 14 or 15 years old, how can you live in a way that she will regard with a feeling of love and respect?; in a way that will draw her to regard you as a man of responsibility and integrity?
     

    • Curtis

       Did you listen to the program, or did you spend the entire time figuring out how to judge these people?  You missed the point.  Go back and listen to it again.

      • Donald Gardner Stacy

        Tell me, Curtis, have you ever had a fourteen year-old daughter who despised you? Well, I once did, sir. Now she’s 32 and doing well, and we get on fairly well. That’s why I asked Mr Alvarez that question. I’ve no need to re-listen to the broadcast; I understand what working class youth are up against, as I’m reasonably sure that you do not.

  • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

     Boyle is trying to cover up real differences in cultures and to deny the fundamental nature of personal choice.  I hope that his program works in spite of his philosophy.

    • Curtis

       Did you listen to the program?

  • Realist

    Nice non answer Father Boyle.  You’re a nice guy but your misguided.  If children keep having children, which seems to be the policy of the Church, then we will have a continuing crop of dragons teeth turning into warriors.

    • Mich

      You are merely speaking out of ignorance.  If you read Tattoos on the Heart, Greg Boyle’s book, you will see how cycles are broken.  I’m sure the harm Paris Hilton has caused is enough for us all to know that quality is the issue, not quantity. 

    • http://libraryomega.blogspot.com/ Spekkio

      While I wouldn’t have phrased it quite the way you did, I share your concern with his answer to that particular question (re: birth control policy). In my view, he used flowery language and logical fallacies to evade the question. It was really quite disappointing.

  • Maureenmaloney

    Thank you for such a refreshing approach to violence and non-productive youth. I would love to see this blossom throughout the country. Imagine if we add Yoga and Meditation!!

    • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

       What would navel-gazing do to solve poverty and crime?

      • Anonymous

        O ye, of little faith.

        • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

           Asking for evidence does get in the way of belief.

      • Curtis

         Everything.  If you’re busy navel-gazing, you’re not out committing crimes. 

  • Cory

    I notice several comments hinting at dissatisfaction with the Catholic/Biblical notion of being fruitfull and multiplying.

    This idea seems to work well with the philophy of limitless economic expansion and growing our way out of all our problems, doesn’t it? 

  • http://richardsnotes.org Richard

    Here’s a suggestion for Tom and the onPoint producers: find someone doing good in the world who we, your listeners need to know about and build a show on it once a month. The world (and this comment thread (thanks Greg Camp)) is so depressing these days it would be great if one day a month onPoint did a show that not only helped spread the word on hidden gems, but helped all of us listening feel like even though we may not be seeing it close to home, some people are pushing ahead and making a difference.

    Greg Boyle is a national treasure and while the “Homeboy model” model may have its flaws, it’s a big and real step in the right direction. Thanks for bringing this project to our attention onPoint, I bought a bunch of Homeboy t-shirts and plan to wear them proudly this summer. I also bought one for my 95 year old mother who lives in LA. I plan to take her down to the Homeboy bakery in the next month when I fly out there to visit her.

    • Cory

      Richard, I’d like to buy you an ale or lager of your choosing!  Great point!
       

      • http://richardsnotes.org Richard

        Thanks Cory, kind words appreciated. instead buy a Homeboy product of your choosing. Seriously, let’s get that meme spread around this coast.

    • Pancake

      Gee, anytime I use the name Tom I usually get banned.

  • Pancake

    Like any bureaucracy these self-help organizations run their course of success and become calcified bureaucratic kingdoms. It happens faster in a might makes right culture. Our corporations need limited term charters for that very reason and so does Homeboy. One transnational enterprise tested executives for sociopathic tendencies. Those who had a strong correlation were promoted. That makes complete sense when maximal profit is the primary aim. By the time the books are written and the founder celebrated the fish is long rotted.

  • Pancake

    Does Richard want news or fairy tales?

  • http://twitter.com/Greenuity Norman Buffong

     Homeboy Industries is an inspiring real-life case about how compassion, empathy, non-judgmental love, caring and mentoring can help transform life for inner-city gang members.

  • http://www.youthadvocates.org RBB

    In Houston, TX check out Youth Advocates – youthadvocates.org; http://www.facebook.com/?ref=home#!/youthadvocates

  • Pboys51st

    fuck that fuu robin alvarez nigga yous a bitch!!lame ass speedy ….ha still varrio PLAY”BOYS 51ST 46ST 56ST CHICOS LOKOS puto!! …..

  • Anonymous

    Its hard enough to get a job,when they show up to Homeboys industries why aren’t these kids shown that appearance plays a big part. Employers aren’t going to trust someone with baggy clothes. Ive tried so hard to get my brother to change his choice of clothing to no avail. Drive by Homeboy industries and its the same as driving by any gang infested neighborhood. All you see outfront is gangmember mentality. No person in their right mind will approach such a building.

    • Anonymous

      Hi Hecelec, If you check out G’s book at the library you will see he actually buys thems new clothes for interviews/jobs. They are also taught to present themselves in a professional manner and lv their attitudes behind. Sometimes ugly books are the ‘best’ books just like Homeboy Industries, just park and go inside, don’t worry about the looks, its far more important what these kids are accomplishing inside. Its all a ‘front’ to be able to live,they have no family life, parents are into drugs, alcohol, etc and ignore the children, its all very sad. Hopefully Father G will have turned a lot of these young ppl around so it doesn’t repeat itself with these young ppl.

  • Keanealice022

    This program moved me deeply. I have long been troubled by the way our prison system does so little to help and change lives. For the most part, it seems it only “HOLDS”, and, importantly, “holds back” when inmates leave and try to reenter society. I realize that there are some efforts, like the “Bard Behind Bars” and other educational programs when they are inside. During that critical time when they leave, they need so much more. It sounds like this program provides that clear understanding of what is needed and a large dose of acceptance which is what must be given to help anyone succeed. Bravo for this program which is making a difference.
    Alice Keane

  • Guest

    In Calimesa is a hot dog fair trailer on Calimesa Bulvard for sale.
    I am a white women of 62. looking for a job sence the ’70′s.  I also never learned to drive and my AA in pschology has not helped so far, although I keep trying.  In Mentone the drugs are rampet and not nessaraly good drugs.  My house needs a roof and there is a lot to be said about the cause of this result.  I thought that if some one could get to the midnighters with a hot dog on a regular basis then some kind of comunity sprit could prevail.  Nothing in my yard is save or sacrid they take any thing left out even for a miniute.  Help in Mentone CA.

  • nowherecatie

    im so excited to check it out down there!  this is a dream place. thank you!

  • Kom leonie

    Thanks for the good work done Fr.Greg.I have just finished reading your book.Tatoos on the heart. VERY CHALLENGING and heart breaking.
    What kind of a man are you? You really represent CHRIST. Many blessings I pray for you.
    Sr. Leonie

  • Chris

    Creating more jobs than our politicians are creating!

  • Fabio Llanes

    Is there an age range for this place?

  • Trish

    I think what Father Greg does is wonderful. A few guys came to my school to speak and I met them, they were really nice and great to talk to. I was so moved by them speaking it sort of changed the way I looked at life. I just hope they can continue to inspire and support the youth. 

  • Samantha Trejo

    I thank Father Greg Boyle for being a helpful man and for helping my brother to get better and to change to be a better adult and father..

  • Samantha Trejo

    I thank Father Greg Boyle for being a helpful man and for helping my brother to get better and to change to be a better adult and father..

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    It is easy to perform duplication work. A 7 years old kid construct the duplication using CD. Can’t he? However, when you start pondering over CV and DVD Duplication for business purposes, you couldn’t (and shouldn’t) trust children or even maybe your nearby neighbor.

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