INGLEWOOD (CBSLA.com) — A local young group of former gang rivals are now working together, using baking and cooking as their ticket away from their former lives as gang members.
A nonprofit group called Homeboy Industries is rehabilitating former gang members through an 18-month cooking and baking program. Participants are also given work in the group’s bakeries, cafes and restaurants throughout Los Angeles.
Up to 15,000 former gang members are benefiting from the Homeboy Industries program each year.
Gordy Abriel joined a gang at the age of 13, and spent much of his young life behind bars. He heard about the program while he was still in prison, and decided to give it a try.
“I already knew, once I got out, it was just (that) the clock was ticking, it was only a matter of time before I went back in,” Abriel recalled. “I wanted to start living life, instead of surviving.”
Participants also have access to free gang tattoo removal, as well as parenting and job training classes.
Former gang rivals now work together through the program, learning necessary skills and depending on each other.
“It feels like I’m just working with a friend now,” Abriel described.
Father Greg Boyle founded the organization 26 years ago, with the goal of saving lives. The Homeboy Industries gang intervention program, which has participants from the ages of 16 to 61, is the largest in the country.
Participant and former gang member Kasandra Cruz discovered the program while in prison. While in the program, she found Abriel. The two, who are now engaged, now have a 5-month old daughter, and both say the nonprofit saved their lives.
The couple is now expecting their second child as they reflect on everything that is now possible for their family, which they never had in their former lives.
To learn more about Homeboy Industries, visit their website here.