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Post Date:05/21/2016 9:38 AM
COACHELLA, May 11, 2016 — It was an unusual field trip by a group of local officials and faith leaders who had never traveled together outside of Coachella before.

Top Coachella officials, including Mayor Pro Tem Emmanuel Martinez, Economic Development Manager Mark Weber and InterFaith Alliance Program Manager Jacob Alvarez, were sharing a rented van with representatives of the Riverside County Probation Department, Our Lady of Soledad Catholic Church, Victory Outreach Church, Fuente de Vida Christian Center, New Life Apostolic Assembly and the Islamic Society of the Coachella Valley.

Their destination: Homeboy Industries in downtown Los Angeles, a non-profit organization run by Father Greg Boyle that operates the nation’s largest and most successful gang intervention and re-entry program.

The diverse mix of representatives from Coachella was on a mission to learn what the city, the county and its various faith communities can do, both individually and collectively, to rescue young people and adults who have gotten involved with gangs.

“I think this kind of collaboration is extraordinary,” said Malik Jackson, a representative from the Islamic Society of the Coachella Valley. “It’s also extremely helpful and vital because practically every mosque is involved in their community.”

“When leaders of different faiths share ideas with city and county officials, they not only build a greater understanding of what each organization is doing to address gangs and other social problems, but they start to generate ideas of things they can do together,” Martinez said.

The delegation and the field trip to Homeboy Industries was the latest effort by Coachella’s InterFaith Alliance to learn new strategies to deal with gangs.

Formed by Coachella Mayor Steven Hernandez, the InterFaith Alliance is developing strategies to ensure, among other things, that our children are successful in school, that they remain safe from violent crime and that they stay away from illegal activities.

“We are tapping all of our community resources,” Hernandez said.

“We’re bringing together city officials, faith leaders and other community leaders. We are creating new relationships, new networks and new approaches to dealing with the challenges confronting our youth.”

The efforts of the city’s InterFaith Alliance are bearing fruit. Last September, for example, Victory Outreach, the InterFaith Alliance and the City of Coachella organized a march against violence, a play and other activities to encourage gang members to leave their lifestyle behind. Eight young people left gangs as a direct result of those efforts, according to Victory Outreach representatives.

“They were inspired by the message of hope and by the fact that we were reaching out to them and demonstrated, with our words and our actions, that we cared about them,” Hernandez said.

These individuals are now getting their lives back on track and are working to become productive members of our community once again. Victory Outreach has a very active and well-known gang intervention program that is rescuing people from gangs in Coachella and other cities across the United States. But there is always more than can be done, and more than can be learned, which is why Victory Outreach representatives

joined other members of the InterFaith Alliance in their field trip to Homeboy Industries in early May. Indeed, during their field trip to Homeboy Industries, members of Coachella’s InterFaith Alliance not only learned about their successful gang intervention programs, which include counseling, tattoo removal services, health services, education programs and job training and job placement services, but they gathered some ideas of how to get the business community and nonprofit foundations involved in gang intervention and rehabilitation work.

Coachella officials said they plan to continue their discussions with Homeboy Industries representatives to see what kinds of sustainable programs can be developed in Coachella to complement existing gang intervention and rehabilitation programs involving Victory Outreach, the Probation Department and other organizations.

“There is always more than we can learn and more that we can do, and the InterFaith Alliance is giving us a means to bring the people together who can help inform and guide us as we continue our work to rescue young people from gangs and show them how they can be positive and productive members of the community,” Hernandez said.

For more information about the InterFaith Alliance, please contactJacob Alvarez at
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