Homeboy-branded chips and
salsa are now staples at
Ralph’s stores in Los
Angeles and could
generate $500,000 in
revenue for the not-for-profit this year.
OPPOSITE PAGE Ex-gang
member Noe Cruz
weighs dough at
Karatz and a small group of social workers, finance people, and
supervisor-level homies piled into Boyle’s office for a meeting. One of
the supervisors, Kyle Shoaf, had called to say that he’d be late. His car
had been towed, which was an especially big deal because he’d been
living in it, a fact that shocked everyone.
Conversation turned to a woman whom conversation often turned
to. She is unstable and, years ago, had failed to hold a Homeboy job, but
still, she showed up most days. A few months earlier, she had charged
one of Boyle’s supervisors with a baseball bat—a boulder of a man who
brushed off the incident, as did Boyle, who figured if she was actually
looking to hurt someone, she would have picked a softer target. Then,
yesterday, she had punched the receptionist in the face. This was more
serious. “Her lady left her, and she’s sad,” Boyle said, sympathetically.
Most of the violence he sees, he chalks up to hurt and depression.
There was also business to discuss. A large foundation, the California Endowment, was planning to convert an old hospital building into
a community center and offered Boyle the industrial kitchen—a
35,000-square-foot space, larger than Homeboy’s entire headquarters.
“I think we say yes,” Boyle said. “Absolutely.”
“But to do what?” Karatz asked.
“Well . . .” Boyle said.
Veronica Vargas, Homeboy’s director of operations, spoke up: “This
would probably add another $1.5 million to our operating budget.”
“A year from now,” Boyle said.
(Shoaf came in quietly and took a seat.)
“But where will the revenue come from?” Karatz said.
“We don’t need to say how we’ll use the space, or what our plan is.
Eventually we’ll need that,” Boyle said. “All we need is a yes.”
“And that is the spirit that built Homeboy,” Karatz said. Everyone
“It has brought us to the brink many times,” Boyle admitted.
Back in the summer of 2010, during the first few weeks after the layoffs,
Homeboy’s normally teeming lobby had been quiet. Word had gotten out
that Homeboy had no jobs to offer. If Boyle ever doubted what made Home-
boy work, that empty lobby settled it for him.
The woman who punched the receptionist had
returned. Alone with Boyle in his office, she paced
frantically. “I didn’t touch nobody!” she shouted.
Typically, people crowd Boyle’s door, hoping to
catch his eye and steal a moment with him, but
everyone kept their distance. Karatz put his jacket
over his shoulder, slid on a pair of big designer
sunglasses, and stepped out to check on a new
Homeboy business down the street.
When Karatz first reported for work two
years ago, Boyle had no idea who he was—just
that Karatz was rich and a friend of the former
mayor. Boyle is not one to Google people. His
impression of who you are seems only marginally informed by what you have done. As for
Karatz’s felony conviction, which Boyle discovered a few weeks later, he said: “Everyone is a
lot more than the worst thing they ever did.