Ex-con jobs

Posted by Dan Grippo
Thursday 19, February 2009 | Category:   Mission & Evangelization

Homeboy Industries, a nonprofit job-training program started by a Jesuit priest for ex-convicts in East Los Angeles, offers hope and a helping hand to former prisoners as they try to rehabilitate their lives and find jobs in a down economy.

For years Homeboy Industries put former felons to work at a bakery and cafe it runs in East Los Angeles. Last summer, Father Greg Boyle, S.J., who started Homeboy two decades ago, was approached by a supporter about the idea of preparing them for the green economy.

Because job-placement for ex-convicts is especially difficult in a recession, "I leapt at the opportunity," said Boyle. Homeboy Industries now has been training a group composed mostly of former gang members on parole to install solar panels so they can improve their skill set and market themselves for the new green economy.

Homeboy has joined forces with the East Los Angeles Skills Center, a public vocational school that offers a hands-on program to teach the design, construction, and installation of solar panels. The course is one of only a few such programs in California and commands a months-long waiting list.

The center created an intensive course for Homeboy. "I loved the idea of doing something for these guys," said Brian Hurd, the senior instructor who designed it. "My best student ever was a Homeboy referral" in a construction course "who needed a second chance."

Read more in an "A New Gang Comes to Los Angeles: Solar Panel Installers" by Miriam Jordan for the Wall Street Journal.

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