THE BLOG

LA Closes Homeboy Industries, Saves the Kittens

05/19/2010 02:57 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Two days before the LA Marathon, I went down to Homeboy Industries to interview a guy named Alex Diaz who, at 17, was hit in a gang-related shooting and has been in a wheelchair ever since.

The doctors told Alex he wouldn't walk, but with the help of a Bally's Fitness volunteer, Alex was training to "walk" the last hundred yards -- a friend holding him by each arm -- across the finish line.

When shooting a video like this you pretty much have the entire thing shot and edited in your head before picking up a camera: Quick Q&A of Alex's story then on Sunday I'd videotape him "walking" across the finish line to a cheering crowd.

"What time do you think you'll be done," I asked.

"Around five," Alex said. We told Alex we'd see him at five.

Around 1 PM I called Alex just to check in, and to my surprise, he was about 15 minutes from the finish line! He said he'd be done around five and it was one. He was four hours early!

Now the LA Marathon is an absolute nightmare of a crowd. Driving one block takes 15 minutes.

I had a friend drop me off and ran 10 blocks, shoving through the crowd but to no avail. I got to Alex and company about five minutes after they crossed the finish line.

Turns out that when he said "five," he meant five hours after the race began -- not 5PM.

I was pissed. I'd wasted my entire Sunday hanging around Santa Monica, then fighting crowds in the hot sun -- only to miss him by minutes.

I didn't bother going through the tape because the entire point of a video like that is see the money shot - seeing him "walk" across the finish line.

But I thought of Alex last week when I heard Homeboy Industries basically laid off its entire staff.

It's such sad and somewhat unbelievable news for Angelenos, as Father Boyle seemed like such an indomitable force.

And all of a sudden Alex telling me to meet him at five -- hour five of the race -- made me laugh instead of annoying me.

And as I went through the months old video footage I kept thinking, where will a guy like Alex go now to tell his cautionary story to prevent others from following in his footsteps?

Father Boyle says in the LA Times: "If these were puppies...we wouldn't be in this trouble." I thought of that yesterday when I heard Eric Garcetti on Patt Morrison talking about how in the face of big LA city cuts they saved the animal shelter in Burbank in the 11th hour. Now I love kittens as much as the next guy, but with gangs being such a problem in LA I do wonder where our priorities are.

I thought too about Homeboy's slogan: Jobs Not Jails.

According to the New York Times, California spends an average of "$47,000 per year to house a prisoner." If we spent half that on keeping people out of jail Homeboy Industries would be alive and thriving.

Alex at the La Marathon: