As the New Year approaches I have reflected on the past 12 years since Homies Unidos first opened its office in Los Angeles with the dream of helping youth affected by war and gang violence. We developed programs specifically for these youth hoping that they may find empowerment in positive action, the support to transition out of gangs and a platform to address and change the inhumane treatment of the immigrant community.
We have maintained our doors open to serve over 6,500 youth and their families from the Los Angeles Pico Union’s Central American community. What, began as a dream has become a reality and today Homies Unidos stands as a nationally recognized organization at the forefront of gang violence prevention and intervention.
As we witnessed through this last election cycle, our immigrant communities have once again become the scapegoat and trigger point for political fear tactics and gangs have been framed as the scary poster child of this debate. Over the past two years there has been a 23% increase in suppression in our immigrant community by ICE, FBI and local law enforcement agencies, leaving countless families separated from each other and children parentless.
With the assistance of your generosity, Homies Unidos has successfully developed exceptional programs to challenge the effects of this violence. The Epiphany Project, Libertad Con Dignidad and Family Wellness programs brings together youth and their parents, affected by gang violence or deportation, to advocate for their rights. Together we helped strengthen their ability communicate and improve their family relationship to over 130 family members this year.
“Homies Unidos has helped me change my life around and has giving me the opportunity to give back to other youth, I now volunteer in organizing the Art activities and outreaching to over 15 artist so far”, Said Juan Canizales, a former graduate of our Epiphany Project program.
We are convinced that through Epiphany Project classes we our helping to create a new generation of peacemakers committed to a building a better world. The process of those transitioning into a better life is not simple; after completing our 12 week program, graduates endure a minimum of 6-10 laser tattoo removal treatments to shed the last of their former lifestyles off their bodies.
In the past year, our ongoing programs have expanded and include a youth leadership and art program as an alternative to gang activity. We have developed these programs for inner-city youth and young adults as we also embark on a campaign to bring awareness of immigration and criminal justice issues affecting our community. Th e “Hip Hop for Peace” was launched on December 7, 2010 and will continue throughout 2011 with a series of events, bringing together local artist in music and art.
In these critical times, your support will greatly help in the success of our youth. Your ongoing support allows us to continue to provide our youth and their families with the skills and tools needed to overcome the obstacles they face in our community. As a non-profit organization, we rely on the generosity and compassion of our donors, like yourself, without whom we would not have the capacity to create peace in the schools, and keep families united in the community we serve. Please join us as a partner in making 2011 a better and more successful year for Homies Unidos.
Homies Unidos wishes you have a joyful holiday season,
Alex Sanchez Troy Garity Executive Director Board Chair