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!
Homegirl Cafe, a division of Homeboy Industries, is proud to celebrate the first year of a formalized training program for gang-impacted young women who seek to change their lives. The training program, which now consists of three stations-- gardening and maintenance, cafe, and catering-- gives women from poor and violence-prone neighborhoods a safe place to learn real skills that will help them support and educate their families, and become leaders in their communities.
More than 35 young men and women now work in the Homegirl Cafe, and those in the training program participate in two month long "externships" and local restaurants, including the Black Cat Cafe, ChopShop, and the Border Grill. Several of our trainees have now been hired in outside positions, and two have enrolled in community college.
Every Monday the café closes early for Women’s Education. The Monday curriculum covers all areas of personal growth including health, financial management, life skills, art, domestic violence, tai chi, boxing, gardening and a variety of other activities. A strong partnership with Peace over Violence has allowed for an ongoing series of domestic violence workshops to take place throughout the years.
After Homegirl Café hours on Thursdays, all training program staff are required to attend classes directed at improved restaurant skills. These classes are made possible by Glendale Community College (GCC). This collaboration started with Mr. Michael Lao, the Director of GCC’s Hospitality & Tourism management program. Mr. Lao conducted 3 pro bono workshops in the areas of Customer Service Skills, Dining Services and Psychology of Guest Services. Mr. Lao continues to conduct workshops covering different topics within the restaurant industry as part of our year-long training program.
This year, the Homegirl Cafe's focus is sustainability. Homegirl Café has added a gardening component that will eventually become a cornerstone of the business. With the aim of becoming a completely sustainable, farm-to-table effort, the Café is expanding this effort with several community gardens and partnerships that will increase both Café involvement in community outreach and workshops, and sustainability within our enterprise. The café now hosts “garden parties” throughout the year, leads community workshops on urban farming, and employs more than 35 young women working toward a better life.
Homegirl Cafe supports the emotional, educational, and work needs of former female gang members by offering them hands-on training in a safe work environment. Women and girls considered high-risk in Los Angeles County are in desperate need of basic tools and opportunities to improve their lives. By offering a positive alternative to gang life and the accompanying violence, Homegirl Cafe helps these young women and girls, and now young men employed in the Cafe, 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 households. We strive to find them work, as well as to create an environment where they can find support, grow, and improve their situation.
Homegirl Café trains high-risk young women in all aspects of the restaurant industry, with 12 training stations and a partnership with Glendale Community College, which provides the curriculum for the education program within the year-long training.
We are approaching the ONE YEAR anniversary of the Homegirl Café job-training certificate program!
a. There are currently 24 trainees in the Homegirl Café program, which now consists of 12 training stations, including gardening, maintenance, line prep, serving, farmers markets, and more.
b. Five Homegirl trainees have been hired outside of the café; one now works at the Black Cat Bakery, one at Chipotle, and three at the Homeboy Diner at Los Angeles City Hall.
c. Two women in the training program are enrolled at Glendale Community College, in the credit campus program for Culinary Arts, and another five at the Garfield non-credit campus for the Hospitality Curriculum.
d. Many of our trainees are also pursuing further education outside of the restaurant industry; one young woman is completing auto mechanic courses at East LA Occupational Center, another is undergoing dental training at UEI, and a third is doing general undergraduate education at East Los Angeles College. Five of our trainees are pursuing their GED at Homeboy Industries.
e. After expressing interest in the gardening station, one of the Homegirl Café trainees completed her master gardener certification at UC Cooperative Extension, and another young woman is a certified Victory Gardener.
f. The “externship” station of the training program has been a great success; one of the young men in the training program has been hired at another restaurant after completing his externship at Greenleaf Gourmet ChopShop, and other trainees have completed or are currently involved in internships at BLD, Café Cito Organico, the Black Cat Café, and the Border Grill. Our hostess is now working one night a week at the Border Grill in order to bring these skills back to Homegirl Café as a trainer.
g. All of the trainees are able to continue life skills and enrichment classes at Homeboy Industries headquarters in addition to the women’s empowerment and hospitality courses that are part of the training program; many have completed parenting, group therapy, and anger management programs at Homeboy Industries.
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