Steve Avalos, of Homeboy Industries, presented its history and its role in rehabilitating people released from incarceration, and training them for productive occupations. Homeboy Industries was begun in 1988 as a job training program by Father Greg Boyle, SJ, of the Dolores Mission Parish in Los Angeles, as an alternative to gang life for high-risk youth. He found sympathetic businesses willing to hire former gang members.
    In 1992, a financial donation enabled an abandoned warehouse to be converted into the Homeboy Bakery, to create more employment opportunities for them. The Bakery eventually received a contract for baking bread. More businesses were added and, in 2001, Homeboy Industries became an independent non-profit. The organization now includes Homeboy Bakery, Homegirl Café, Homeboy/Girl Merchandise, Homeboy Farmers Markets, The Homeboy Diner at City Hall, Homeboy Silkscreen & Embroidery, Homeboy Grocery, and the Homeboy Café & Bakery in the American Airlines terminal at LAX.
Homeboy Industries assists high-risk youth, former gang members and recently released prisoners, by providing them with mental health counseling, legal services, tattoo removal, education classes, work-readiness training, and employment services. Its small business enterprises give employment opportunities to hard-to-place individuals, with transitional jobs in a safe, supportive environment where they can learn and practice job skills and feel the satisfaction of earning a paycheck.
          Mr Avalos discussed his own history of pain, despair and hopelessness in gang life during his childhood. He saw family members murdered or sent to prison. He slept on the floor at home to avoid drive-by shootings at night. His mother tried unsuccessfully to get him out of gang life, and when he was 14 she gave him an ultimatum: Get out of the gang, or get out of the house. He ended up homeless on the streets. At age 17, he went to prison for a gang-related murder (not allowed to testify against other gang members for a reduced sentence).
          After 17 years in prison, he was released, but he couldn’t find work with this record, except with Homeboy Industries. This opportunity turned his life around and gave him skills and hope for a better future. Now he is proud of his wife and his much-younger half-brother whom he is mentoring for a better life. (PDG Dave Moyers noted that Rotary District 5280 obtained a Reverse Global Grant of $54,000 to provide Homeboy Industries with an Italian oven and a laser device for removing gang-related tattoos.)