Homeboy Industries — the famed nonprofit founded by Father Gregory Boyle in 1988 to help former gang members rehabilitate their lives — is having a Hollywood moment.
This month, Latino actor Richard Cabral, a former gang member who turned his life around with the help of Homeboy, was nominated for an Emmy Award for his work on the television series American Crime. Also this month, Homegirl Café, Homeboy's downtown eatery, has opened a second, more high-profile location on the Westside inside Culver Studios.
Located on the Washington Boulevard lot, where classic films such as Gone With the Wind and A Star Is Born were made, the new Homegirl Café offers a cafeteria-style breakfast and lunch for those working in its production offices and shooting on its soundstages.
Employees of such shows as CBS’ The Good Wife and Amazon’s Hand of God can eat from a range of Latin-fusion menu items such as lentil sausage soup, chilaquiles and kale grilled cheese. There is also a grab-and-go section. All the food is made fresh daily, from scratch, by formerly gang-involved men and women employed by Homeboy.
Homeboy Industries CEO Tom Vozzo says the human services agency has been looking to expand Homegirl Café beyond its original location for a while. A connection on the board level led to Culver Studios, which was in the process of looking for a new supplier for its commissary.
“They visited Homeboy and learned how we are a social program … and were willing to take that leap of faith and give us a try,” Vozzo says.
Unlike downtown's Homegirl Café, the Culver Studios location is not part of Homeboy’s 18-month training program. Rather, it is staffed by graduates.
That decision was made by Homeboy, in part because it wanted an opportunity just for graduates (for whom finding a job outside Homeboy can be challenging due to their criminal records) and also because the Culver location is too far from the Homeboy headquarters, making it less convenient to use as a training facility.
The nonprofit's expansion to a studio lot is important for Homeboy’s growth. The organization earns around $9 million from donations and $6 million from its various business enterprises each year. In addition to providing more training and job opportunities, a second Homegirl Café location boosts business revenue.
“I think our business should grow, and I can see us having a Homegirl Café in Santa Monica or out in the Valley,” Vozzo says. “But our message is not about being a business. It's about helping people transform their lives and become contributing members of society. Would we love that message to go mainstream? Absolutely.”
Homegirl Café at Culver Studios, 9336 W. Washington Blvd., Culver City; theculverstudios.com.