"House Of Second Chances"
By Douglas McGray
It occurred to Father Greg Boyle during those rides that the biggest problem facing his community was the lack of work—especially for young men who had spent time in prison—and, by extension, a pervasive sense of hopelessness. So he started looking for jobs for the men. When he couldn’t find nearly enough, he decided to create some. In 1992, with a large donation from a movie producer, Boyle took over a small, shuttered bakery and founded Homeboy Industries.
"We don’t hire homies to bake bread. We bake bread to hire homies."
By 2010, Homeboy was the country’s largest gang-intervention program, employing hundreds of felons—Boyle calls them his “homies”—at a cafe, a silk-screen shop, and other small businesses, and offering services such as free tattoo removal, GED classes, and counseling to thousands more. Boyle had become famous, even by Los Angeles standards. (Periodically, tourists will peer into his office and snap his picture, or ask him to sign a copy of his 2010 best-selling book, Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion.) Still, he remained Father G, addressing his employees as “son” and “kiddo,” “dawg” and “mijo,” and marrying them, and baptizing their children—and, sometimes, burying them. He stayed in the same room in Boyle Heights, a converted garage of a Jesuit group house, with just enough room for a mattress on the floor and a shelf for his books. And he still gave his cell-phone number to every hard case he met. “Blow it up,” he says, and they do.