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.
We now have 20 trainees enrolled in the job-training certificate program run by Homegirl Café. The program, formed in partnership with Glendale Community College, started in September 2010 with 14 trainees. The trainees are now cycling through all seven stations; maintenance, garden, back kitchen (including prep and catering), front kicthen, retail, serving (including hosting and running), and an externship at one of our three partnering restaurants- the Black Cat Cafe, Border Grill, and BLD.
In addition, Cafe junior staff, about 20 young women and men, serve as the lead staff partnering with the trainees. The goal is to engage and empower each one with the training, the education and the experience necessary to build a successful career in the food service industry.
All trainees and junior staff are required to attend the weekly four-hour class taught by Glendale Community College faculty from the Culinary, Nutrition and Hospitality Management Program of the Restaurant Management Department. Classes taught on-site at Homegirl Cafe are drawn from this curriculum, and range from personal development to restaurant financing. The objective is to encourage attainment of an A.A. degree, serving as role models to open the doors of possibility offered through further education.
These training stations and the accompanying curriculum allow our women to gain essential job skills, understand sustainable growing, eating, and cooking processes, and support their families while finding a safe "home" community of mentors and peers.
We have some exciting new updates from the last months; the training program has launched Homegirl Café's Backyard Gardens initiative, where Homegirl trainees plant and maintain family and organization gardens to grow organic produce for the café- we have four gardens so far and hope to expand to many more in the upcoming months. The Homegirl Café has also partnered to create a community garden in Central Juvenile Hall, where Homegirls can serve as mentors to incarcerated youth while teaching gardening skills. In the past months Homegirl Café has also brought an exciting new product- smash it ups - to three farmers' markets in Los Angeles: Pershing Square, South Pasedena, and 3rd & Hope, where Homegirls "smash up" seasonal fruits and veggies grown in our gardens into healthy salads and fruit cocktails. At our annual Lo Maximo Awards Dinner, Homegirl Café provided all of the appetizers and "smash it ups" for over 750 guests; at this event we honored this year's Homegirl Hero, Shayna, who now works full time at the Black Cat Café
Homegirl Cafe is thrilled with the launch of Homeboy Chips and Salsa in Ralphs stores all across Southern California, and the release of these products in January 2011 showed a great support for Homegirl Cafe and Homeboy Industries; our products were the highest selling in the deli department at Ralphs for the month!