BATON ROUGE (NBC33) — Nothing stops a bullet, better than a job. That's the message Father Gregory Boyle brought to the Renaissance Hotel Baton Rouge Thursday, as the guest speaker for a Hope Ministries fundraiser.
Boyle is the founder and director of Homeboy Industries, that takes ex-gangmembers from Los Angeles streets, and provides therapy, tattoo removal, job training and life skills.
"Just started to do things," Boyle explained. "Started a school, jobs program, then businesses. First Homeboy Bakery, then a tortilla factory."
Boyle's built a small franchise with seven businesses and 15,000 people who walk through his door every year.
"Thousands of gang members, enemies, rivals, have worked together in all businesses and programs," Boyle said.
Boyle brought two guests with him, ex-L.A. gang members and drug-dealers, turned productive citizens with the help of Homeboy Industries.
"Thanks to Father Greg, I've got a chance to pull away and live life differently," said Gabriel Morales, a Homeboy Industries employee.
Morales received free counseling for personal issues. Now he's working full time for Father Boyle.
"I've been able to work on things as an individual and just deal with things in a different way," Morales said. "Not acting out of anger and frustration anymore. I get to meet with a therapists and talk about issues."
As Baton Rouge struggles with its own crime issues, both Boyle and Morales said something like Homeboy Industries can work here, as long as someone cares and is willing to take the time.
"I think you could do something like Homeboy Industries," said Morales. "But make it your own, so it means something to Baton Rouge and the state of Louisiana."
Father Boyle said they've helped 20 other cities set up their own similar organizations, taking on the identity of whatever city they're located in. He said he'd be happy to do the same here in Baton Rouge.