'Homeboy Bakery' gives LA kids a second chance
November 25, 1999
LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- In a community plagued by violence, the Homeboy Bakery has provided former gang members and ex-felons a place to learn a trade and work their way out of the barrio.
But on October 29, a fire gutted the bakery, in the predominately Latino area of east Los Angeles. The blaze caused more than $40,000 damage to the bakery's front office and packaging area; and put 11 former gang members out of work.
"Homeboy Bakery is an alternative to kids who have found themselves, regrettably, in gangs and want to redirect their lives," said Father Greg Boyle, a Jesuit Priest from the Delores Mission, the poorest parish in the Los Angeles Archdiocese.
"Our motto here is 'Jobs not Jails,'" Father Boyle said. "What if we invested in these young people, rather than invested in buildings to hold them incarcerated for a long time?"
Displaced baker Tony Barragan, 24 said he joined one of the 900 street gangs in Los Angeles when he was in the 6th grade. But, he said, "I'd rather work."
"Having a job is really good; and if you think you're going to be out here making the easy money, you're going to do easy time when you get caught, you know?" said Barragan.
While Los Angeles Police Department statistics for the last 12 months show crime has decreased about 11.6 percent citywide, there were at least 358 gang-related deaths this year -- a 2-percent increase over the same period in 1998.
As a way to address crime, Father Boyle opened Homeboy Industries, a group of six small businesses, including the Homeboy Bakery back in 1991. Father Boyle said he places about 300 youths in jobs each year.
Community support will be the key to getting the Homeboy Bakery back up and running. Since the fire, about $300,000 has been raised through various events, including donations and an awareness campaign from one Los Angeles-area hip-hop radio station.
Six of the displaced bakers now work at different bakeries.
"The job at the bakery was a like, you know, it was a lifesaver to me," said Danny Marcia, 19, who now works at BakeAway, on the west side of Los Angeles.
"I went through a lot of stuff, and I grew up too fast," said Marcia. "I came to decide that lifestyle that I was living wasn't going to get me nowhere. I love my job. It's like a hobby to me."
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