Hope for Nonviolent Change: How to Support Homeboy Industries

by Jen Owens

I still remember the first time I heard Fr. Greg Boyle, SJ speak. It wasn’t even in person. I hadn’t been able to make it for his appearance on campus, so my Christian Life Community leader invited me to his campus apartment to watch a video of Fr. Greg with a few other folks who had missed the event. I couldn’t offer you a quote from Fr. Greg or cite Homeboy Industries’ mission statement, but I can tell you that I left Mike’s apartment that night filled with a sense of hope that there could be positive change toward a nonviolent future for some of the most broken communities in Los Angeles.

Shortly thereafter I started volunteering in juvenile hall in LA, and I spent as many afternoons as possible with the men of Theo Lacy Jail the following summer, when I was interning at the Orange County Catholic Worker. As I listened to the stories of the young people and the men who were incarcerated, I heard many common themes. Inherited poverty. A lack of support for positive life choices. Familial lines filled with gang activity. Substance abuse and addiction. But something happened in the listening. The folks who were there learned that someone “on the outside” valued them enough to come back each week. And their stories for me transformed the way I understood the message of the Gospel; it would never sound the same to me again. How could I hear Luke 4:18 and not think of the youth and the men I had encountered?

These are the memories that came back to me when I heard about Homeboy Industries’ Virtual Car Wash. The economic crisis has hit many nonprofits hard, and Homeboy Industries is no exception. They’re trying to gather a million donations of $10 each to reach their goal of raising $10 million to insure the financial future of the organization. Can you help? If you don’t have $10 to spare (or even if you do), can you get involved with youth who are at risk in your community?

Jen Owens is a co-editor of From the Pews in the Back: Young Women and Catholicism.

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