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Fresh sandwiches, soups, pizza, pastries and coffee are now available for employees and visitors to L.A. City Hall at the Homeboy Diner, the latest business endeavor of Homeboy Industries, an organization that helps former gang members rehabilitate their lives.
The diner, which debuted last week, is the only eatery currently open in city hall. It is staffed by clients of Homeboy Industries, which provides training, education, jobs, tattoo removal and other services. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa joined Father Greg Boyle, founder and CEO of Homeboy Industries, at the grand opening ceremony on June 9 for the diner, which is located on the second floor of city hall. Some of Homeboy Industries’ clients also attended the opening, and said their lives have been forever changed by their relationship with the organization.
“I would probably be dead or in prison,” said Kyle Shoaf, a supervisor for Homeboy Industries. “It taught me how to be proud of myself, it taught me that my life is worth something.”
Shoaf, who is originally from San Bernardino, said he had recently been released from prison in 2008 when he heard about Homeboy Industries and decided to see what it was about. He said shortly after walking through the front door, he met “Father G”, which is the nickname clients have given to Boyle. Shoaf said he was impressed by the operation and decided to stick around. Three years later, he is gainfully employed by Homeboy, and is optimistic about his future.
“I just started off getting to know the place, and then I became a tour guide, or a ‘shepherd’ as we call them. Then I started helping with the hiring, and I am a supervisor there now,” Shoaf added. “I had been with gangs all my life. People should definitely check it out. Homeboy offers hope for people who want help.”
Boyle said the diner at city hall is the latest project the organization has launched, and approximately 15 of Homeboy’s clients will staff the eatery. Homeboy also employs clients in its bakery, a silkscreen and embroidery business, the Homegirl Café and Catering, and the Homeboy Farmers’ Markets.
“It’s going to provide more jobs, and it is a way to provide a message of hope to people who thought hope was foreign,” Boyle said. “We saw an opportunity here and we went for it. We are the only eatery there at the moment.”
Villaraigosa, who was joined at the ceremony by City Councilmembers Tom LaBonge, 4th District, and Tony Cardenas, 6th District, said he was pleased the Homeboy Diner has opened at city hall. He added that the work Boyle and Homeboy Industries are doing makes a considerable difference in young people’s lives.
“I believe in his ministry, because it is a ministry of hope that believes in our young people,” Villaraigosa said. “He has dedicated his life to doing this, and as he says, ‘nothing stops a bullet like a job’.”
Boyle said the success of Homeboy Industries translates not only into improvements in the clients’ lives, but also into fewer incidents of violence throughout the city.
“There is no question things are getting better,” Boyle added. “Since ’92, when you had one thousand gang-related homicides, that has been cut in half, and then it was cut in half again. Do I think Homeboy had anything to do with it? Nobody denies that.”
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