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GRID Alternatives & Homeboy Industries: Transforming The Future Of Solar Energy

In 1988, Father Greg Boyle founded Homeboy Industries as a way to serve former gang members in East Los Angeles. Now, over 30 years later, Homeboy Industries has become the world’s largest rehabilitation and re-entry program for those previously incarcerated or seeking to transform their lives. Besides offering wrap-around rehabilitation services from tattoo removals to parenting courses, Homeboy Industries offers an 18-month employment and re-entry program and several ongoing training programs, including a California state-funding solar panel installation planning program in partnership with GRID Alternatives.

GRID Alternatives, based in Oakland, California, operates with a revolutionary triple bottom line: people, planet, employment. Erica Mackie, P.E., and Tim Sears, P.E. envisioned a model where solar PV technology is practical and accessible for low-income communities and pathways to clean energy jobs are abundant. Since its founding in 2001, GRID has installed solar for 22,592 units, including Homeboy’s center in Los Angeles, and engaged 46,098 people and counting in solar education and training. GRID’s comprehensive training program provides trainees, some of whom are affiliated with Homeboy Industries, with the hands-on opportunity to participate in the installation process from start to finish. Trainees are also provided with photovoltaics classes through the East Los Angeles Skills Center.

California is at the forefront of the growing American solar industry and, through this collaborative program, those often underrepresented in solar, including women, people of color, and those impacted by the criminal justice system are positioned to be leaders in the green energy field after program completion. This work is made possible by the California Workforce Development Board (CWDB), which has recognized the transformative work taking place here and financially supports the expansion of employment opportunities in California such as this.  

In a recent interview, Shanley Rhodes, Director of Career Pathways at Homeboy Industries, stressed the importance of rehabilitative services like the partnership between GRID Alternatives and Homeboy Industries saying, “People need healing, they need the opportunities for education and meaningful careers. Most of all, they need hope – people who have hope make different choices, because they have strength through hope.” 

Through their shared mission to promote economic and environmental justice, GRID Alternatives and Homeboy Industries are inspiring new approaches to a sustainable, community-oriented future. Their work goes beyond just installing solar panels; it is about reinvesting in system-impacted, historically marginalized communities. This innovative, collaborative model has a ripple effect felt throughout California, far beyond the neighborhoods where the solar panels are installed.Photo credit: GRID Alternatives