I went to the brand new, spanking clean, glorious Homeboy Industries today. Located just north of Union Station, east of Chinatown, this multi-faceted organization provides career counseling, job training, legal services and productive work for at-risk former gang members.
First we ate lunch at the Homegirl Cafe and had some delicious fresh salads and fruit drinks. There is a copious selection of baked goods, right from the on-site bakery, and a little gift store selling t-shirts. The staff is well trained, polite, professional. Ex-gang or reformed, I don’t care what they call themselves, their work ethic and dignity outperforms many LA restaurants.
We then were given a tour of the free services which include anger management, job and computer training, tattoo removal, post-prison release counseling, community service, legal advice.
As our group walked around, one young blind man in sunglasses came up to us. He told his story of how he was shot in the head and lost his sight. His sensory impaired head was positioned at an odd angle on his shoulders, but he explained that once upon a time “my gun was God, and then I found God”. He had been in prison, spent 18 years in a gang, and now worked here to help rehabilitate others like him.
Next to him, another man, with his left hand missing, no doubt shot off, told us how he teaches anger management.
I come from a privileged background, though I often don’t know it.
All across Los Angeles, what suffering people endure: violence, degradation, abuse. Under the shaved heads, behind the inked arms and chests, a holocaust of hopelessness.
But looking around downtown Los Angeles, there are seeds of change, like those plants which pop up in flame ravaged forests.