By Martin Barrett
Jose Garcia loves kids, especially kids that are in the midst of the hard road he traveled. His road led him to prison and solitary confinement. It opened his eyes to the culture in which he was raised. It also opened his heart to faith, a faith that transformed his life.
“I started out a youngster on the streets. I know what it’s like growing up in a gang-affected community. Street after street of low-income apartments. Stifling poverty. Drugs. Gangs. Your world is your 4-block radius. Your role models are living the same life”, said Garcia.
The first time we were scheduled to connect, Garcia canceled at the last minute. One of his kids was having trouble in prison, and he needed to get there quickly. We met two days later, and this time, he had a posse of 3 kids (two fresh out of prison and one who had found a place to belong and therefore was not on the road so many of her friends had taken), plus a fellow staff worker. We carried on our conversation, including them in it. It was clear that Garcia understands what it is to authentically speak into kids’ lives by bringing them where he is, to be part of conversations he is having. “We do discipleship, not daycare programs. We want changed lives!” Gracia said with conviction. He demonstrated that in real time.
The mission of “Hope for Homies” is to bring hope and purpose to those marginalized by gang affiliation and its impact on communities. “These kids do not come from good family situations. When they return from school, they are immediately told to clean the dishes, do that job, and fix this. So they look for belonging in other places,” said Garcia.
“Hope for Homies” began in 2014 when Garcia was released from prison. During his time in solitary, he envisioned a place where kids could be safe, share and move forward in life with community, healing, and a future. He shared this vision with his pastor. Soon “Hope for Homies” was born.
Garcia’s organization is relational. They “hit the streets” and build relationships with gang kids. “Now I help young and old homies find hope and educate communities with the heart to help. I walk with homies as they heal from their past, offer forgiveness and learn to love themselves. I try to lead through example and live in unity for the good of all God’s kingdom”, Garcia said.
“Hope for Homies” is a complete-spectrum work. Mentors and staff are involved with kids in prison. They help them as soon as they get out, setting up jobs and good places to live. They teach driving so kids can get around and find employment. They have mentoring groups where kids are expected to share the areas they are struggling with and their progress with one another. They go for weekly hikes in the summer. They have community gardening and teach kids how to grow vegetables and eat well.
Of particular interest, “Hope for Homies” removes more tattoos than any other regional organization. Most of these are face tattoos that prevent them from getting jobs.
Kids as young as ten up through young adults are part of the ‘Hope for Homies” community.
“You have a lot of Hispanic people in Burien…and you have gangs. We would love to be here in Burien, helping these kids to a better future”, Garcia said.
An additional article will discuss what needs to happen for “Hope for Homies” to come to Burien. In the meantime, if you have questions or want to be involved, please reach out to: