The Cast

Greg Boyle
Founder and Executive Director

Father Gregory Boyle, founder and executive director of Homeboy Industries, and the NY Times Best selling author of "Tattoos on the Heart," is an acknowledged expert on gangs, intervention and re-entry and today serves on the U.S. Attorney General's Defending Childhood Task Force.

Born in Los Angeles (one of eight children), Fr. Greg worked in the family-owned dairy, loading milk trucks to earn his high school tuition. An enduring memory of that youthful time is when "…these weathered old truckers would come up to me, put their arms around me and point at my father in the distance, on the loading dock, and say, 'Your dad is a great man.'" Lessons from that first job apply at Homeboy Industries today where employees come to change for themselves and their children. After graduating from Loyola High School (Los Angeles, 1972), Fr. Greg entered the order of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) and was ordained in 1984. He received his BA from Gonzaga University; MA from Loyola Marymount University; a Master of Divinity from the Weston School of Theology; and a Sacred Theology Masters from the Jesuit School of Theology.

Prior to 1986 Boyle taught at Loyola High School and in Bolivia. Appointed Pastor of Dolores Mission (Boyle Heights neighborhood) in Los Angeles, he served from 1986-1992. During 1993, he was a Chaplain at a Mexican Penal Colony and Folsom Prison, returning to LA and Dolores Mission in 1994. Homeboy Industries traces its roots to "Jobs For A Future" (JFF), created in 1988 by Boyle at Dolores Mission. To address the escalating problems of gang-involved youth, he and the community developed an elementary school, day care program and sought legitimate employment for young people.

In 1992, as a response to LA's civil unrest, Boyle launched the first Homeboy Bakery to create training, work experience, and opportunities for rival gang members to work side by side. Today Homeboy Industries' nonprofit social enterprises include Homeboy Bakery, Homeboy Diner, Homeboy Farmers Markets, Homeboy Silkscreen & Embroidery, Homeboy/HomegirlMerchandise, and Homegirl Café & Catering along with comprehensive free wrap-around services.

A nationally renowned speaker, he and several "homies" were featured speakers at the White House Conference on Youth in 2005 at the personal invitation of Mrs. George W. Bush. In 1998 he was a California delegation member for President Clinton's Summit on Children.

Boyle serves on the National Gang Center Advisory Board (U.S. Department of Justice). He is also a member of the Advisory Board for the Loyola Law School Center for Juvenile Law and Policy and previously served on the California Commission on Juvenile Justice, Crime and Delinquency Prevention. Boyle's first book, Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion, was released on March 9, 2010, and named one of the Best Books of 2010 by Publishers Weekly and is the PEN USA 2011 Best Creative Nonfiction Book. The 2010 Goodreads Choice Awards identified him as "Best Debut Author".

Homeboy Industries, now located in the heart of downtown Los Angeles, is recognized as national and international model for youth seeking to move beyond gangs and achieve a life of hope.

Shayne Welcher
2011 Homegirl Hero Award

Shayna came to Homeboy after living in and out of jail for most of her teenage years. Her mother, who met Father Greg while she herself was in jail, brought Shayna to Homeboy where she started her journey working in the Homegirl Café. She became a leader and clean and sober. Last year Shayna was given a chance to move beyond Homeboy and was hired as a full-time employee at the Black Cat Café in the Miracle Mile of LA, where she loves to recommend food and gets positive energy from her interactions with the customers. Shayna plans to continue to go to school to learn more about the restaurant business.

Hector Verdugo
Associate Executive Director at Homeboy

Hector is Father G's 'right arm person.' Hector grew up in East LA where he says, "Gang life style was in our family – all my aunts and uncles were involved. It was easy to get into the violent life style of being a gang member and looking forward to going to juvenile hall to prove yourself. When you got out, you had to go to state prison." Hector reflects: " It's a horrible way of thinking, but it is what it is."

Says Father G, "The minute I met him I said he's a leader you want to nurture." When he no longer oversees Homeboy, Father G expects a person like Hector, not a priest, to run the place. Says Hector, " It's an honor to sit at his desk and to take a load off one of the greatest people on earth. I get to help…I want to help as much as I can."

Fabian Debora
Substance Abuse Counselor

Fabian was raised in Boyle Heights in LA where he met Father G in grade school, a time when he began creating art. He said, "Addiction was in my family. As a kid growing up I saw my dad shooting up, my uncle snorting coke. As a kid you think that's normal, part of life." Fabian says he got involved in gangs because, "I was searching for identity, looking for someone to care for me, protect me, survive."

After leaving street life and gangs and becoming clean and sober, Fabian became a substance abuse counselor and mentor at Homeboy and works with OTIS College of Design as a liaison between community artists in Boyle Heights and students in the classroom. Fabian began his art career in 1995 as a member of the East Los Angeles Streetscapers and was mentored by many Chicano artists and muralists. He was introduced to creative expression in all forms, from graffiti to murals to sketching and fine art painting. His murals can be seen throughout East Los Angeles. Fabian exhibits in solo and group exhibitions in the US, including New York, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, and Kansas City. Fabian believes that by interpreting his personal experiences and that of his community through art, he believes he too can effect positive change as Homeboy has done for him.

Louis Perez
Manager of Homeboy Bakery

Louis oversees a 24 hour Bakery Operation with three shifts of workers, all former rival gang members working side by side. Says Louis: " I've known Father Greg since I was 12 growing up in juvenile facilities. I kept going in and out. He'd see me and give me his card and say come see me, come to the office. You deserve more. I couldn't believe that."

Louis says, "Home life was difficult. I was raised in a dysfunctional family with domestic violence, so I'd rather be on the streets or in jail than home. " At 21 he came to see Father G looking for a job. G said, "You start Monday." Louis began college and the 12 step program and his life has transformed since. He says, "Father G helped me so much in my life and now I'm able to do what he did for me for other people – that's what drives me every day to come here."

Kyle Shoaf
Senior Navigator

Kyle is now a Senior Navigator at Homeboy supervising new trainees and young people coming off the street looking for change. Kyle says, "My father was the person I looked up to so my entering the gang life was a given. I didn't know what else I was going to do. I had no career plans, no school – all I knew was gang-banging."

One day, after coming out of prison, Kyle was riding the Gold Line train that passes over Homeboy. "Something told me to jump off the train and go in…I waited a long time to talk to G and he asked me a lot of questions - where I was from - the kind of questions gang members ask." That moment changed Kyle's life and he has been a model leader at Homeboy since.

Brian Moon
2012 Homeboy Hero Award

Brian first heard about Homebody from an inmate while in prison. After his release Brian one day was looking at the Homeboy website with his sister when his mom, looking over his shoulder said, "They look like you (i.e. tattoos, bald head). Why don't you go there?" In 2009 Brian said he went to Homeboy because "I wanted something else. It wasn't what I learned or gained from gang-banging. It was what I lost from it – family, faith, hope." He found that at Homeboy and became a staff assistant, a tour guide and speaker. A year ago he was given an opportunity to work for the Iron Workers Union Local 416. Brian says: " I was very scared to leave because Homeboy was my home, but one of things I've learned here is faith, so I took a leap of faith and have been in the union since." He says he misses the work at Homeboy but "I love the work I do now and look forward to what local 416 has in store for me. Thanks to Homeboy!"

Veronica Vargas
COO and Director of Operations

Since day one of meeting Father G, Veronica says they connected and continue to share a special bond 7 years later. As Chief Operating Officer and now Director of Operations for Homeboy Industries, Veronica oversees 7 departments including Tattoo Removal and Mental Health and is a key liaison for all local and state governmental agencies.

Veronica's interests in at-risk programs and minority advancement stem from her being raised in a single-parent, but loving immigrant home in Commerce, just outside of downtown LA. Veronica witnessed first hand the impact of gangs on families and communities. Her three-year volunteer work at Los Padrinos Juvenile Detention Center allowed her to see the shortcomings of our juvenile rehabilitation system and the need for positive interventions. Veronica began her career as a Program Coordinator at the Multicultural Affairs Office at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, managing programs focused on the recruitment and retention of underserved minorities in health professions.

She received a B.A. in Spanish from Humboldt State University and an M.A. in Hispanic Literature from the University of New Mexico. She attended the Facultad de Filología y Letras, Granada, Spain, and in graduate school was a Josefina Fellow, Coordinator for the Heritage Language Departmen. Fluent in English and Spanish, she also has a working knowledge of Portuguese.

Homeboy Industries
A Place of Hope

Homeboy believes that "Nothing Stops a Bullet Like a Job" and offers hope to high-risk, recently incarcerated, and formerly gang involved youth looking to change their lives. Founded as a youth program in 1992 by Father Greg Boyle, S.J., it is home to social enterprises that provide job training and comprehensive free services for those seeking employment and a path out of gang life. It is now the nation's largest and most successful gang intervention and rehab program, and an international model, with a 70% success rate in turning kids away from gang life and toward a productive future.

At its heart the true business of Homeboy Industries is not business at all. It is to infuse hope for whom hope is foreign. It is the fostering of a community of kinship, a "gang rehab" and a therapeutic environment where those who have been cast aside are given what they need to return to society as whole, healed…and hopeful…young men and women.

History of Homeboy Industries