A few years ago, things were even worse. Homeboy had to tighten its operation, but that time the county also pitched in, with the first of three payments totaling $3 million. Today, the only government funding is a small sum from the state.
"We get zero dollars for that," said Boyle.
Homeboy's five paid therapists and 47 volunteers counsel youngsters who have dodged death and lost parents to violence, drugs or jail. But there's nothing in the county's $1.5-billion mental health budget for Homeboy, nor is the nonprofit in line to receive any of L.A. County's roughly $300 million in state funds for prison population reduction.
UCLA professor Jorja Leap, who studies gangs and intervention programs, has spent nearly five years tracking 300 Homeboy clients. She says she's seen solid results, and that the majority of the 300 have stayed out of prison, had reduced their levels of traumatic stress disorder, found full- or part-time work and rekindled family ties.
"There is no one like them for one-stop shopping," she said of Homeboy.
At the commission hearing, Father Boyle said he hoped Mayor Eric Garcetti would support a program with such a long track record.
I wouldn't bet on it. When I asked Garcetti's office for a response, a spokesman emailed me a teaspoon of vanilla.
"Mayor Garcetti has great respect for Father Gregory Boyle and Homeboy Industries," said the first of two noncommittal sentences.
Homeboy might have better results with L.A. County supervisors, although none of them has recently given any of their roughly $1 million in annual discretionary funds to Homeboy. Staff for Supervisors Mike Antonovich, Gloria Molina and Don Knabe all gave nods to Boyle and expressed a desire to help him compete for various pools of money. Knabe took it a step further, saying, "My real goal would be for a long-term partnership with Homeboy."
But this is Los Angeles, home to 22 billionaires at last count. Home to a Hollywood crowd that congratulates itself for its social conscience and, in just one night at George Clooney's house, raised $15 million for Barack Obama — more than Homeboy's annual budget.
A Jesuit priest, meanwhile, goes begging for a little help with his life's mission. Boyle has now presided over 193 funerals, becoming more determined, with each one, to prevent the next.