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Helping Homeboy

Father Greg Boyle's Homeboy Industries is renowned for helping troubled young people. But, as always, it's a question of money.

December 23, 2009

Kids and young adults in trouble often come to the attention of Los Angeles County or city agencies, which try to set them straight if they can, punish them if they must, and help them if they are able. The help often comes in the form of a referral to a place that will offer peer counseling, find jobs, remove tattoos or help in the search for a purpose in life. And that place, far more often than not, is Homeboy Industries, founded and overseen by Father Greg Boyle. Homeboy and Boyle have become internationally famous for their efforts to turn around former gang members, and in a city in which fame and fortune usually go together, it's easy to forget that Homeboy is run on a shoestring.

That shoestring came close to breaking this year, in part because of the economy, but also in part because of Homeboy's success. Government agencies send people in need of help, but rarely do they send funding. And those services that have done so much for so many people trying to leave or avoid gang life aren't cheap.

So how does a nonprofit organization of, by and for youth stay in business? A bake sale? Homeboy does it, on a fairly sophisticated scale, with Homeboy Bakery and Homegirl Cafe at Alameda and Bruno near Chinatown. How about a carwash? Homeboy does that too -- with a virtual carwash, at You can go online and make a donation. Your car may not get any cleaner, but your city will be better for it.

Homeboy and the people it serves need your help. Boyle says the organization's moneymaking businesses are close to turning a corner and becoming sufficient to support the invaluable services that Homeboy counselors and friends have been offering for more than 20 years. But first it has to get to the corner.

The Times rarely uses this space to call on Angelenos to donate money, but we don't shy away when the need is great and the cause is just. Earlier this year, we asked philanthropists to open their wallets for the Museum of Contemporary Art, which had run down its endowment in the course of becoming a city treasure. But if MOCA deserves support -- and it does -- how much more, then, should the city get behind Homeboy, an organization that steers youths away from gangs and crime, and toward help and hope?

Call the virtual carwash charity if you must, but in fact a donation to Homeboy is an investment in Los Angeles that keeps its streets more humane and its future intact. And if that's too much in these difficult times, remember, you've got to eat. You may as well do it at Homegirl. And by the way -- they cater.

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