Help women leave gang life at the Homegirl Cafe!

by Homeboy Industries

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!

We currently grow a number of high quality seasonal vegetables, culinary herbs and teas at the Homegirl Mini Farm, Solano Gardens, FarmLab, and a school garden at Dolores mission, where Homegirls lead weekly gardening classes with elementary school students. It is our goal to provide as much as 50% of the bulk produce and herbs used by Homegirl Café & Catering and Homeboy Bakery by the end of this training year!  By composting almost 100% of our food waste, using only vegetable based plastics, unbleached paper products and by constantly improving our recycling program, we aim to be a leader in sustainable restaurant practices and the evolving urban food movement.

 Our vision is strengthened by community partners including Alice Waters of Chez Panisse, Metabolic Studio, Farmworks LA, Milagro-Allegro Community Garden, Dolores Mission Elementary School, Urban Farming, Woolly Pockets and the UC Cooperative Extension.

The goals of implementing an extensive urban farming program as an introduction to café employment are to:

1.       Provide a solid connection between the process of growing food and restaurant operations.
2.       Increase organic produce production and sustainability for Homegirl Café and Catering and Homeboy Bakery.
3.       Enhance culinary practices and café fare through seasonal menu planning.
4.       Improve the nutritional habits of employees and their families through garden-based curriculum and agriculture education.
5.       Collaborate with local schools to enhance learning and healthy habits through garden education.
6.       Utilize horticulture therapy as a means of healthy development and successful reintegration during the parole or probationary period.
7.       Establish a viable business and revenue source through garden retail products, edible landscaping and garden maintenance.
8.       Provide agricultural job training that can be connected to long term ‘green job’ employment opportunities.
9.       Increase the representation of underserved communities in the local food movement and regional food jobs.

10.   Play a role in expanding awareness of urban food production for Los Angeles residents through gardening workshops, cooking demonstrations, farm to table events, backyard grower circles and edible landscaping services.

Addressing larger issues of poverty, grocery deserts and obesity is an important component of our urban agriculture effort. As a contributing member of the LA Food Policy Task Force working group, Homegirl Café is constantly seeking ways improve access to local, organic and healthy food for all. Concretely, we seek to empower vulnerable communities through gardening workshops, cooking demonstrations and resources for at risk communities.  

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

Homegirls lead gardening class at Dolores Mission
Homegirls lead gardening class at Dolores Mission

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!

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Organization Information

Homeboy Industries

Location: Los Angeles, CA - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.homeboyindustries.org
Project Leader:
Stephen Lucasi
Grants Manager
Los Angeles, CA United States

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