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L.A. County considers $1.3-million contract for ailing Homeboy Industries [Updated]

September 14, 2010 |  7:40 am


The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote Tuesday on a $1.3-million contract with Homeboy Industries that would provide crucial funding for the gang intervention program founded by Father Gregory Boyle two decades ago.

[Updated at 11:20 a.m.: In a 3-0 vote Tuesday, supervisors approved the contract. Gloria Molina, Don Knabe and Zev Yaroslavsky voted yes; Mark Ridley-Thomas and Mike Antonovich were absent. According to the contract that passed, Homeboy officials must submit a quarterly report to the county detailing their activities, an addition made by the county's chief executive.]

Earlier this year, Homeboy officials were forced to lay off most of their employees because of crushing financial problems. The organization, which uses jobs to draw young people away from gangs, had seen a steep decline in charitable contributions since the economic downturn, as demand for its programs soared.

The contract with the county, if approved, would pay for Homeboy Industries to hire 20 job trainees and provide employment counseling, tattoo removal and mental health, legal and other services for 665 probationers and other individuals between the ages of 14 and 30 considered at risk of incarceration.

County Chief Executive Officer William T Fujioka has recommended approval of the contract, which would be paid for with already-budgeted funds.

“Programs like this one help these kids and young adults redirect their lives in compelling ways, benefiting us all,” said Assistant Chief Executive Officer Ryan Alsop. 


Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas described Homeboy Industries as “a premier organization that has distinguished itself by helping literally thousands of young men and women turn their lives around,” many of them in his district.

“An entity that has a national reputation for doing good ought to be aided at its time of need,” he said. “The county is better for it.”

Boyle, whose work is also supported by Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck and L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca, said about 85% of the 12,000 current and former gang members who turn to Homeboy Industries for help each year are on probation or parole.

“The county never asked us to be their reentry program, but I don’t think anyone can deny that’s what we are doing,” Boyle said. “So we are really grateful to have the county acknowledge as much through this commitment. … It’s an enormous help.”

Boyle said he was also heartened by support from the city of Los Angeles and its residents. Since Homeboy Industries laid off more than 300 employees in May, he said, the organization has received donations totaling $3.5 million.

About 100 people are back on the payroll. Others have stayed on as volunteers.

“The people who reside here really embraced it as their own,” Boyle said.

He cautioned, however, that the county contract would only provide funding until the end of June.

Homeboy Industries operates a cafe and bakery as well as maintenance, silk-screening and other businesses that generate about $3.5 million a year, Boyle said. The organization needs to raise an additional $6 million a year to cover its operating costs.

“We still have a long way to go,” he said.

-- Alexandra Zavis

Photo: Father Gregory Boyle checks messages in May after employees were laid off at Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times