On Valentine’s Day, one of the main articles on the cover the Wall Street Journal was an article about Homeboy Industries’ new jobs program that trains parolees and former gang members for careers installing solar panels.
It’s a great program and terrific story to read. Here’s how it begins.
(Note: Since the WSJ hides itself behind a subscriber only fire wall, I’ve also linked to another site that has the story.)
When Albert Ortega was released from prison four months ago, he was determined to turn his life around. So he went green.
Mr. Ortega sports tattoos of an Aztec warrior on his back, a dragon on his chest and the name of his former gang, the East Side Wilmas, rings his biceps. Drug trafficking kept him locked up for most of the past seven years, he says. But after serving his last term, for 18 months, he heard about a solar-panel installation course.
“I wanted a new way of life,” says the tall, brawny 34-year-old. “Solar puts me on the cutting edge.”
In the race to train America’s “green-collar” work force, a group composed mostly of former Los Angeles gang members on parole is an early participant. Their training is funded by Homeboy Industries, a Los Angeles nonprofit that helps people with criminal pasts find employment.
President Barack Obama has made the production of renewable energy one of the pillars of job creation. All sorts of people are now rushing to acquire skills to launch careers in the budding sector.
For years, Homeboy Industries put former felons to work at a bakery and cafe it runs in East Los Angeles. Last summer, founder Greg Boyle, a Jesuit priest, was approached by a supporter about the idea of preparing them for the green economy.
Read the rest.
Then, after you read it, answer one question for me: If our mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, is loudly committing himself to gang prevention and intervention programs, and also noisily backing Proposition B, the so-called Green Energy and Good Jobs for Los Angeles Act, then why doesn’t he combine the two urges and provide Homeboy’s solar program with some kind of nominal support—and then take credit for their success—instead of throwing whatever city money the mayor’s office controls at less proven and/or effective gang intervention programs. (More on this in the coming weeks.)
I’m just curious.