Gang-Intervention Group Forced To Downsize
ALLISON KEYES, host:
Earlier in the week, we talked about a recent announcement by Attorney General Eric Holder. Monday, he said the White House will take on gang violence as one of its top priorities. To talk more about those efforts, we spoke to the mayor of San Jose, California, Chuck Reed. But we also talked to Father Gregory Boyle. He leads Homeboy Industries. And for over 20 years, that group has been at the forefront of stopping gang violence in Los Angeles.
Well, since we last spoke with Father Boyle, things haven't been so good. He's had to lay off 300 workers, including his senior staff. And Boyle says he, too, will no longer take a paycheck, all because of financial problems. Father Boyle joins us again now to update us on the state of Homeboy Industries.
Father, welcome to the program, and what happened?
Father GREGORY BOYLE (Homeboy Industries): Well, you know, since November, we've been sounding the alarm and people have contributed, but just not enough to rescue us at this moment. So we've laid off 300 of our trainees and all our senior staff.
We're keeping our doors open. Right now, we're about to start the day and everybody's here, even though nobody's getting paid. All our businesses are open and thriving, actually. But we're still going to have tattoo removal and job counseling and mental health counseling. And - so we'll see what happens.
KEYES: Did you see this coming?
Father BOYLE: Since November, yeah. So we - you know, and the cry went out, and because of the recession we've moved into this huge headquarters and then the recession hit. It was the perfect storm of not having, perhaps, included in our capital campaign enough money to keep the program going. So, yeah. We did see it coming.
KEYES: What's going to happen to the 300 staff members?
Father BOYLE: Well, we're asking everybody to go ahead and apply for unemployment. And we'll help them do that. But yesterday, it was really quite tearful. Everybody was saying we're going to work here whether you pay us or not. But people are going to have to pay their rents eventually and feed their kids. So...
KEYES: I read that you said if we were talking about puppies or little kids, you wouldn't be in this trouble.
Father BOYLE: Well, again, it's like, who are we going to rescue, you know, in this city, you know? The Museum of Contemporary Art was in trouble, and they rescued it to the tune of $60 million. And the Hollywood sign was saved to the tune of $12 million. And no animal shelter in this county will ever, ever, ever be in danger of closing its doors. And that just means a Warhol and a Hollywood sign and a puppy are apparently worth more than the 12,000 gang members who walk through our doors every year.
Father BOYLE: Probably sad.
KEYES: What's going to happen to Homeboy Industries? Are you going to stay open?
Father BOYLE: Yeah. The businesses are open. And, again, they're thriving. And we're about to which is an odd kind of irony, is that we're about to have the Homegirl Cafe in the LAX, in the airport. We're about to have all our salsas sold in the Ralph supermarkets in the entire Southern California region. So businesses are thriving. It's just they're just not enough to bring in money to pay for all our other workers and all our senior staff.
KEYES: Have you gotten any offers of support, or is there a way that people can help?
Father BOYLE: Yeah, certainly go to the website at HomeboyIndustries.org. And people, you know, seem to be responding. So this is, you know, very heartening.
KEYES: Briefly, father, how are you yourself going to make a living?
Father BOYLE: Oh, you know, I'm a Jesuit. I live in a Jesuit community. I'm not going to starve. I'm just concerned about these folks who are not concerned about themselves yesterday. They were concerned about seeing me so pretty -grieving. And they're a pretty remarkable group. So we'll see what happens.
KEYES: Father Gregory Boyle joined us from his home office in Los Angeles. You can learn more about Homeboy Industries by logging onto our website. We'll have a link there to his organization and a link to our earlier conversation with him about gang violence. Father, thank you very much for joining us, and we hope there's a happy ending to this story.
Father BOYLE: I think there might be. Thanks a lot.
KEYES: You're welcome.
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