By Staff –
Father Gregory Boyle, a Jesuit priest who founded one of the largest gang rehabilitation and re-entry programs in the country, Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles, spoke at three events in Rochester during the week of March 3, including one in front of a crowd of 700 people at Asbury Methodist Church.
Father Boyle founded the organization in 1988, during the height of L.A.’s gang wars, in an attempt to connect gang-involved youth with educational and practical services that included tattoo removal, work-readiness programs and legal assistance, as well as job opportunities through businesses the non-profit created including Homeboy Bakery, Homegirl Café, and Homeboy Silkscreen & Embroidery.
Margaret Joynt, one of the event’s organizers, said the goal of the program had been to show the community it would be possible to apply Boyle’s initiative in Rochester.
“In the hardest hit areas, they can learn on the job, and that’s what he has done there,” Joynt stated. “So, that is the idea, and it’s very important. The whole idea was to get people to realize that this is something that can happen here.”
According to Joynt, she was part of a local committee that raised the funds to bring Boyle to speak with the help of several local churches.
And, although the event wasn’t a formal part of the Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative, Dr. Leonard Brock, the director of RMAPI, introduced Boyle, prior to his presentation.
“Lenoard Brock introduced him, and he was the moderator,” Joynt stated. ” The Center for Youth was represented, Paul Clark was there, and Dwayne Mahoney from the Boys and Girls Club on Genesee St. was also there.”
The Homeboy Industries’ model has been adopted in 46 communities — from Alabama and Idaho, to Guatemala and Scotland.
The group has also provided technical assistance for replication of the model, but has allowed communities to determine their own needs, and to keep ownership of their initiatives at a local level.
Father Boyle gives 200 lectures a year, and is often a speaker in Chautauqua, N.Y.
He has written a New York Times bestselling book titled, “Tattoos on the Heart,” about his experiences with Homeboy Industries, and his work with the group has also been the subject of a recent documentary.
Visit http://www.homeboyindustries.org/wheres-father-g for additional information regarding the group, or to find out where Boyle will speak next.