Each year Homeboy Industries, which provides support and job training for formerly gang involved and previously incarcerated men and women, celebrates the achievements of its trainees at the Lo Maximo Awards, our annual benefit dinner. It’s an exciting night for the senior staff, trainees, and generous donors who attend. Trainees love dressing up in their finest gowns and suits (many of which are donated by Homeboy supporters) and being recognized for positive accomplishments. Lo Maximo, which means “the best of the best” in Spanish, is especially meaningful to trainees who may have only gotten attention in the past when they were in trouble.
This year the women of Homegirl Café are taking a leadership role. Café Manager Arlin Crane reports that, for the first time, they’ve planned every detail of the event, from the recipes for the reception to the table designs. And they’ve done it all while taking the difficult steps necessary to transform their lives: attending classes and 12-step meetings, seeking counseling, removing tattoos, and more. In the past few months, three Homegirl Café trainees have gotten their drivers’ licenses. Another regained custody of her daughter from the foster care system.
It’s all in a day’s work at Homegirl Café.
Since the launch of our 18-month training model, the women of Homegirl Café have benefited not just from the job skills they’ve learned and the income they’ve taken home, but from Homeboy Industries’ many other services. Caseworkers work with each trainee to craft a plan that may include psychotherapy, substance abuse counseling, parenting classes and/or arts programming. Our trauma-informed clinical services ensure that trainees have the self-esteem that is critical to success on the job and in life. Trainees also have access to GED classes, one-on-one tutoring and our charter high school.
The women who come to Homeboy often face a unique set of challenges, including family reunification, domestic violence and sex trafficking. Classes like Building Relationships for Women help address these needs.
At the start of the 18-month period, trainees work on the maintenance crew and have time to take classes and work on themselves. As their training becomes more advanced, and they are eventually assigned to externships or one of Homeboy’s social enterprises, trainees scale back on classes and clinical services; at this point, they’re ready to integrate with the larger community.
One of the social enterprises, Homegirl Café, provides a safe space for women to develop positive relationships with other women. The café has been integral in the lives of trainees like Angie, whose smiling face greets people at the bakery counter each day. Gang violence was part of Angie’s family life growing up, but as a single mother of four, she wanted her children to have more stability and better opportunities. Her income at the café has allowed her to provide for her children, the oldest of whom she is now sending to college. Angie’s story is just one of many examples of how the Homeboy model breaks the cycle of intergenerational violence.
At Homeboy Industries and Homegirl Cafe, we help formerly gang-involved and previously incarcerated men, women and youth redirect their lives and become contributing members of our community.
To meet these goals, we provide a variety of different services. Since the beginning of 2013:
All of these services are provided free of charge.
Homeboy Industries has many positive outcomes to report from 2013. With your help:
We are proud of our trainees' and community clients' many accomplishments, and grateful for your support of our organization.