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Restaurant gives former gang members a second chance

Several Great Falls residents are in Los Angeles this week to receive training and network with other community leaders to address crime prevention and other civic issues.

One of the areas highlighted during the conference is how one program is giving former gang members a second chance.

The Homegirl Cafe in downtown L.A. is run entirely by former gang members, like Adela Juarez, who explained, "I ended up in prison. When I got out, it was hard to find a job."

About 30 women work full-time at the Cafe doing everything from washing dishes to cooking and cleaning. But for many it's not just a second chance at a new job - it's a second chance at a life without crime.

While employed, the women get an internship with an outside restaurant which many end up working at down the line.

They also get to take classes through the program, with a focus on education and parenting.

Juarez noted, "It's wonderful because that gives you hopes that there are opportunities out there, even though you have a criminal background. And this is where you start."

A witness to that start is Great Falls resident Carol Bronson, who said, "It's completely different from what we have in Great Falls. And to hear these gang members' stories, adds to the depth of the story."

Juarez openly shared her story with Bronson and others.

Bronson said, "It is amazing, overwhelming, because you hear people say that everybody should get a second chance, and I have never seen it in action before. We got to see a community solution to a very serious problem."

And with the help of her community, Juarez is literally serving back her crime, one day at a time.

Juarez remarked, "Our life has turned around due to that second chance, that second opportunity. And not only that, but somebody believing that we could make that change."

The Homegirl Cafe is part of a larger organization known as Homeboy Industries; click here to learn more.
Several Great Falls residents are in Los Angeles this week to receive training and network with other community leaders to address crime prevention and other civic issues.

One of the areas highlighted during the conference is how one program is giving former gang members a second chance.

The Homegirl Cafe in downtown L.A. is run entirely by former gang members, like Adela Juarez, who explained, "I ended up in prison. When I got out, it was hard to find a job."

About 30 women work full-time at the Cafe doing everything from washing dishes to cooking and cleaning. But for many it's not just a second chance at a new job - it's a second chance at a life without crime.

While employed, the women get an internship with an outside restaurant which many end up working at down the line.

They also get to take classes through the program, with a focus on education and parenting.

Juarez noted, "It's wonderful because that gives you hopes that there are opportunities out there, even though you have a criminal background. And this is where you start."

A witness to that start is Great Falls resident Carol Bronson, who said, "It's completely different from what we have in Great Falls. And to hear these gang members' stories, adds to the depth of the story."

Juarez openly shared her story with Bronson and others.

Bronson said, "It is amazing, overwhelming, because you hear people say that everybody should get a second chance, and I have never seen it in action before. We got to see a community solution to a very serious problem."

And with the help of her community, Juarez is literally serving back her crime, one day at a time.

Juarez remarked, "Our life has turned around due to that second chance, that second opportunity. And not only that, but somebody believing that we could make that change."

The Homegirl Cafe is part of a larger organization known as Homeboy Industries; click here to learn more.
Several Great Falls residents are in Los Angeles this week to receive training and network with other community leaders to address crime prevention and other civic issues.

One of the areas highlighted during the conference is how one program is giving former gang members a second chance.

The Homegirl Cafe in downtown L.A. is run entirely by former gang members, like Adela Juarez, who explained, "I ended up in prison. When I got out, it was hard to find a job."

About 30 women work full-time at the Cafe doing everything from washing dishes to cooking and cleaning. But for many it's not just a second chance at a new job - it's a second chance at a life without crime.

While employed, the women get an internship with an outside restaurant which many end up working at down the line.

They also get to take classes through the program, with a focus on education and parenting.

Juarez noted, "It's wonderful because that gives you hopes that there are opportunities out there, even though you have a criminal background. And this is where you start."

A witness to that start is Great Falls resident Carol Bronson, who said, "It's completely different from what we have in Great Falls. And to hear these gang members' stories, adds to the depth of the story."

Juarez openly shared her story with Bronson and others.

Bronson said, "It is amazing, overwhelming, because you hear people say that everybody should get a second chance, and I have never seen it in action before. We got to see a community solution to a very serious problem."

And with the help of her community, Juarez is literally serving back her crime, one day at a time.

Juarez remarked, "Our life has turned around due to that second chance, that second opportunity. And not only that, but somebody believing that we could make that change."

The Homegirl Cafe is part of a larger organization known as Homeboy Industries; click here to learn more.

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