Homegirl Café isn’t just a safe space for women leaving gang life to learn job skills—it’s also one of Homeboy Industries’ most successful social enterprises, bringing in more than $890,000 last year (its sister enterprise, Homegirl Catering, did an additional $600,000). That’s why Homeboy Industries jumped at the chance to open a new Homegirl Café at the historic Culver Studios.
The new outpost, which opened in July, offers menu items like chilaquiles, quinoa pancakes, and chicken mole, in addition to treats from Homeboy Bakery.
Expanding our social enterprises helps raise money to fund the services that make transformation possible: case management, education, legal assistance, mental health services, and employment services. Yet because we overstaff all our businesses for training purposes, we are still reliant on (and grateful for!) community members who support our mission.
It’s because of our supporters that café trainees like Fallon can say: “Homeboy is a blessing, but it’s more like home. It’s my safe haven.”
Homeboy Industries’ culinary training program provided job training and wrap-around support for 78 former gang members and previously incarcerated individuals between July 1 and December 31, 2014. All trainees work closely with case managers to determine goals and create roadmaps to meeting those goals. They participate in classes ranging from Anger Management to Pathways to College. Individual therapy and support groups for substance abuse, domestic violence, and other issues help trainees deal with deep-rooted struggles that often result from traumatic childhoods.
The combination of rigorous job training and a therapeutic environment has facilitated true transformation for people like Karla, who had several roles at Homeboy Industries and worked her way up to a position at Homegirl Café. Upon graduation she went through a lengthy interview process to secure a job at Marriott Hotels, where her strong work ethic and effervescent personality quickly impressed staff and guests. Two recent Homeboy culinary graduates, Selina and Javier, were accepted into internships at the prestigious Bouchon Bistro in Beverly Hills and subsequently were hired full-time.
Homeboy’s commitment to facilitating change for society’s most marginalized people is unwavering. As Homeboy founder Fr. Greg Boyle tells trainees, “What gets melted away here is all the stuff that people aren’t. What’s left is your brilliance.”
Since its opening in 2007, Homegirl Café has been a destination for Angelenos who enjoy “Mexican food with a twist.” The café is also a safe, encouraging training ground for the women who work there. Under the leadership Café Manager Arlin Crane, Homegirl Café is constantly trying new things; last year we began selling tamales made from scratch for the holidays, in keeping with Mexican tradition. We also invite volunteer groups to participate in “tamaladas,” tamale-making parties at which former gang members and volunteers work side by side, sharing food and stories.
Homeboy Industries also recently launched the Homeboy Food Truck, which employs several alumni from Homegirl Café. The truck specializes in chilaquiles—fried tortilla strips with toppings like red mole chicken, chipotle skirt steak, veggies, and cotija cheese—and also serves up tacos, sandwiches, and pastries.
In the past year, 39 trainees have worked at Homegirl Café and received wrap-around services at Homeboy Industries, including case management, education, counseling, and tattoo removal. Fifty trainees (including café workers and those in our other food-related social enterprises) received California ServSafe Food Handler’s permits. Homeboy graduates went on to work for companies such as DeLuscious Cookies, Little Mama’s Café, and Robek’s Juice.
Delicious food is a means to a more important end: helping women who’ve faced nearly impossible hardships rediscover their own worth. A trainee named Lily recently said she now tries to see her the challenges she’s faced “not as my enemy but my dearest friend, allowing it to bring out the best…. Homeboy Industries has allowed me to accept my past as a wonderful part of me. It helped me see my strengths and how important I am.”