What former gang members can teach us

I heard a great story at a conference a few months back. In my mind this story represents how responsive and innovative nonprofits can and must be.

I was on a site visit in East Los Angeles at a nonprofit called Homeboy Industries.  A staff member recounted a story of how frustrated a client was at his inability to find employment.  The client received job training, legal services, mental health and transition counseling but still was unable to find a job. 

The young man was a heavily tattooed former gang member. 

Among this man’s many tattoos was a very prominent four word expletive tattooed across his forehead.  Father Boyle (founder of Homeboy Industries) looked at the young man and intimated that the tattoo on his forehead may pose a barrier to gainful employment.  That face to face with his client led to Ya ‘Stuvo (Spanish for “that’s enough, I’m done with that”), a free tattoo removal service for clients. 

How can I forget the delicious pastries I purchased at Homeboy Industries?  Homeboy Industries also has business ventures in silk screen printing and lawn care. Plus it sells merchandise (t-shirts, coffee mugs and mouse pads) with the Homeboy Logo.   These enterprises help provide services that range from legal assistance to job training to counseling to tattoo removal services at no cost to clients.

Now that is what I call responsive!