Over the past three years, the Homegirl Café has experienced significant growth and success, with more than 40 young men and women now employed as trainees or as leaders in the café and urban farms. As our employees recognize their strengths and gain experience, many move to “trainer” positions where they are supervisors and mentors for our trainees. There are currently twelve of these female leads in the café. Retention in the café has been consistently over 70%, compared to a 75% recidivism rate for most young offenders in California, and several young men and women have moved to outside employment. The café and its training program, led by Chef Pati Zarate and managers Erika Cuellar and Shannon Smith, have become a model for Homeboy’s other social enterprises. Homegirl Café has adopted a motto that applies not only to the high quality food that we serve, but also to our approach to mentoring young women as they work toward a better life: “Grow. Prep. Serve.” Through education about the origins of fresh food, organic food production, composting and local food, we empower our trainees to seek healthy food resources in their own communities as well as encourage their friends and families to join them. As we continue to grow, we look to new initiatives that will strengthen the café and the young people who work within it
Homegirl Café & Catering a division of Homeboy Industries, is a social enterprise assisting high-risk and formerly gang-involved young women, and a few young men to become contributing members of our community through training in restaurant service and culinary arts. Homegirl Café has a one-year training certificate program that empowers women to undertake what is often their first “real job,” while receiving needed services as they work toward a better life. Trainees cycle through three stations; café, catering, and garden & maintenance, while regularly meeting with their case manager to address underlying needs (including mental health, GED preparation and testing, substance abuse, domestic violence, tattoo removal and legal services), and attending weekly classes on life skills, restaurant operations, and management in the café. By offering a positive alternative to gang life and the accompanying violence, Homegirl Café helps these young women, and now a few young men employed in the Café, to create stronger families, make better choices for themselves, break the cycle of poverty, and increase their self-confidence, making them better leaders and heads of household. With steady employment, job skills training, and mentorship and education for their futures, these women create a generational shift in their families and move away from gang involvement, becoming role models in their families and communities. As a working restaurant open to the City of Los Angeles, Homegirl Cafe serves as a training facility for our women and men to gain technical skills and develop a sense of self-empowerment through honest and meaningful employment
Homeboy Industries provides hope, training, and support to formerly gang-involved and recently incarcerated men and women, allowing them to redirect their lives and become contributing members of our community. Our free programs - including counseling, education, tattoo removal, job training, and placement - help these young men and women to become leaders in their families and communities. From the Homeboy Bakery to Homeboy Silkscreen & Embroidery, our social enterprises provide safe spaces to develop important job skills while also adjusting to a lifestyle of change and leadership.
While our social enterprises support about 30% of our budget, they have a “double bottom line.” We strive both to operate successful social enterprises as businesses, but also to make a real impact on the lives of our trainees through critical services and true job training. For this reason, we overstaff our social enterprises and allow our trainees to take time in their workday to work on themselves; an hour for a tattoo removal appointment or a therapy session is not usual in a business, but it is a fundamental piece of the job at Homeboy. For this reason, we rely on public support to sustain our free services and the training aspects of the Homegirl Café, the Homeboy Diner at City Hall and the rest of our social enterprises.
Former rivals soon find themselves working together, experiencing true friendship in place of gang life. One of our social enterprises is the Homegirl Cafe, which provides comprehensive training in the restaurant and urban farming industries, with wrap-around support services for our primarily female staff. The cafe employs primarily females because of the specific issues that these young women face, from domestic violence to single parenthood. Since January 2012, more than 15 young women have moved onto jobs in the restaurant, growing, and hospitality industries!
This fall, we are looking to upgrade components of our catering, gardening, and kitchen programs. The Homegirl Café opened in its current location in 2007, and since then our equipment and dining area have taken a lot of wear and tear! We’d love for you to support our upgrades, from new blenders for catering to high chairs in our dining room!