Homeboy Industries, a training program for former gang members, will provide labor for the Redwood Solar Farms project in California. Homeboy helps train former gang members in construction to gain the skills they need to get and hold regular jobs so they can become independent and stay away from gang culture.
Solar panel installation training is also provided by Homeboy Industries. The organization’s name references males, but some females are gang members and they can also participate in the training programs to learn jobs skills.
The photovoltaic developers for the Redwood Solar project are 8minuteenergy Renewables and sPower. Homeboy Industries is collaborating with them to build three solar PV plants.
Commercial operation of the newly constructed solar power plants is slated for this summer. The entire project is made up of three solar plants:
33.26 MW, Hayworth Solar Farm
20.86 MW, Redcrest Solar Farm
18.75 MW, Woodmere Solar Farm.
The project site is 345 acres of low-producing farmland in Kern County, CA, which is in southern California. Once operational, the new solar project will provide enough electricity to power about 9,000 homes. Power purchase agreements have been signed with Southern California Edison, PG&E, and the city of Palo Alto.
Homeboy Industries graduates have about a 70% job placement rate 90 days after commencement.
Why work with gang members? The Homeboy site has some chilling statistics. “According to the California Department of Education, the rate of 9–12th dropping out among black high school students rose to 43.5% and to 36.1% for Hispanic/Latino students in 2009. In East Los Angeles, over 53% of adults never completed high school. In October 2010, Education Week labeled Los Angeles the ‘dropout epicenter’ of the nation. Los Angeles County is home to 34% of California’s poor, with a poverty rate of 16.1%. 75% of youth gang homicides in the state of California occur in Los Angeles County.”
The city of Los Angeles has had consistent gang activity for decades. Particularly in the 1980s, when it was at a peak, the violence was very difficult for local police to manage. Father Greg started Homeboy as a mission to help gang members leave that lifestyle and get trained in the construction industry so they could lead normal lives.
Homeboy works with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 428 to train participants and help them find jobs.
Image Credit: NASA