We attended the 2019 Global Homeboy Network gathering for the fourth time earlier this month. The sixth annual event brought together 320 attendees from 85 organizations, seven countries, 30 states and 72 cities.
Six years ago, Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles decided to create a network that would bring together nonprofit change agents from around the world and encourage them to take aspects of Homeboy Industry’s program back to their own communities. And that network gets together every August. During the two-day event members can share ideas, learn best practices and get to know each other.
Why we became involved in the Global Homeboy Network
We’ve been impressed by Homeboy Industries, the world’s largest gang rehabilitation and reentry organization, for many years, so when we first heard about the gathering we decided to attend. And we’ve kept going back.
“The reasons we attend the Global Homeboy Network Gathering are many. A key reason, however, is that we want to get together with people who are working with the same population we are. We want to learn as much as we can to improve our core work — serving those coming out of prison by being a resource for their healing and for their success in adjusting to life on the outside,” says Mark Drevno, Jails to Jobs founder and executive director. “At the gathering, there were people from around the world. We wanted to see what they are doing and learn from their successes and mistakes. It’s good for us to share our successes and mistakes, as well. It’s a process that can help us improve our offering just that much faster.”
The Global Homeboy Network Gathering consisted of two days of workshops given by Homeboy and other HGN members. Topics ranged from partnering with other organizations and fundraising to creating a social enterprise and establishing healthy communities. Panel discussions and technical support sessions were also offered. Father Greg Boyle, Homeboy’s charismatic founder, delivered opening and closing remarks and was participating and available throughout the gathering.
Impressive GHN members
Some of the GHN member organizations we were particularly impressed with:
- Astanza Laser – a laser equipment supplier that generously extends substantial discounts with special pricing on both equipment and service contracts to nonprofits that offer free or low-cost tattoo removal. Three of the four– and the newest – machines Homeboy owns are Astanza.
- The Other Side Academy – a vocational training school for people age 18-64 in Salt Lake City with a two-year program that some students attend instead of being incarcerated.
- Mod Pizza – a second-chance employer with more than 400 locations across the U.S. and in the U.K.
- Our Father’s Table – a San Capistrano, Calif., faith-based organization that gets to know the homeless people in the community and guides them to the services they need.
- Generation Diamond – an Omaha-based organization that helps youth find purpose in their lives and reach their full potential.
- Underground Grit – a nonprofit organization in Orange, Calif., that promotes change in prisons, jails, and juvenile facilities by providing innovative services within institutions and to those in reentry.
- Project 180 turns lives around through innovative, wraparound services that keep people out of jails and prisons and in their communities.
Father Greg inspires attendees
Beyond the organizations and the workshops, however, was the presence and inspiration of Father Greg Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries. Being with him and hearing his teachings is the main reason we attend, according to Drevno.
“You leave there with a lot of hope and feeling revitalized,” he says. “Through his storytelling and sense of humor, Father Greg had many beautiful ways to remind us of what’s most important. And what’s most important is that you need to lead with your heart and that we belong to each other.”
In his closing remarks, Father Greg tells the gathering that:
“We are always on the lookout for the hidden wholeness that’s been there all along. Unshakable goodness. We help each other find our way home to have full and free access to our own undeniable goodness, our essential dignity. It is never in question, only our access to it.
In our Network, it is never about choosing. It’s about finding. If damaged people damage people, and if traumatized people cause trauma, then people who have experienced love and tenderness will extend that into the world. We believe all of us that cherished people will cherish people and in this we all inhabit our own mystical dignity. So this is the truth of who you are as we leave our time together. You are mystics, and you have chosen to speak the whole language. Don’t stop. May you continue to be fluent in extravagant tenderness.
Members look ahead
The Global Homeboy Network is sold out every year, and we feel that it would be nice if it could be more than an annual gathering. As a start, a private LinkedIn group for members was proposed. This group will hopefully provide a common forum for conversation and offer a chance to get to know other member organizations. That way, we can all continue to learn from each other and improve what we do to further encompass the ideals of Father Greg.