The next group to enter the Homies program may be as many
as a dozen, but the FLOC founder doesn’t want to go above that
number “because it takes time to train them individually.”
One of the biggest parts of the FLOC Homies Union is an
employment readiness and youth empowerment program, which
involves 16 weeks of training. The program provides paid
participants to learn the basics of leadership and community
organizing. Youths are identified by FLOC staff for inclusion in
the program, where they will be taught job-seeking strategies,
employment readiness, understanding power structures, résumé
writing, building social capital, and civic engagement skills.
“On the employment side, each one has a program tailored
individually,” said Velásquez, citing one participant who was
placed in a recording studio so he can develop his love of
recording and hip-hip while learning that trade firsthand.
Participants are placed at a work site in the community to gain
first-hand experience and put into practice all of the
information they learn in the trainings.
“We have a deal with that studio so that he’s getting mentored
and supervised,” explained Velásquez. “So he’s getting mentored
at work and mentored here. He’s going to be an important part of
the Homies program, because he’s a poor white kid. We
need to reach out to the poor white kids, not just the Latino
Velásquez explained the Homies program for young people
is running parallel to another program aimed at adults, which is
being run by Ramón Pérez and Monica Morales. The
FLOC founder held a “train the trainer” for the pair, who will
lead the next class of adults. Velásquez also stated the best
kids in the current Homies program will help to train and
mentor the next group of Homies.
“By the time these kids get done with the next round of
training, we can release Monica and Ramón to do something else,”
he said. “They'll run their own trainings. It builds on itself.”
Velásquez stated FLOC now has about 160 associate members,
people who have joined the group and received membership cards.
By the end of the year, Velásquez hopes to have 300 to 400
associate members in the program, including youth.
“At some point it will have critical mass and will take off on
its own,” he said. "That’s the way I do it with the migrant
workers. We build up a mass organization and then we ask for
recognition and negotiate agreements. This is essentially the
same pattern we’re going to do with the city. We carved out that
meeting with the police department based on this movement.”
Pérez and retired college professor Dr. Manuel Caro are
working on the six-hour curriculum police recruits will learn
about Latino culture, in order to better relate while walking
“We’re getting [an opportunity] at the [police] academy to teach
them about us,” he said. "We'll broker some workshops about
first-contact relations, for when you first encounter a cop. Our
kids will know what to do, how to behave—but so will the cops.
We want to broker that dialogue immediately with the police. If
you start on the wrong foot, it goes downhill from there.”
Velásquez is planning a big assembly of the associate members
sometime in the fall or winter to elect their own spokespersons.
The FLOC leadership will work with them “to build an
organization of the poor in Toledo.”
“We’re really reaching the more marginalized members of our
community—the kids that have fallen off the deep end, the kids
that are out of school,” he said. “Some of these Homies—we’re
getting them back in school, getting their GEDs and we’re trying
to push for more education for them. One of the issues that has
surfaced for the kids is getting Latino culture into the
curriculum at Toledo Public Schools.”
Velásquez stated his group is negotiating that issue directly
with TPS leaders with the help of the Toledo Federation of
Teachers. He stated TFT President Kevin Dalton “has been
supportive” and that has helped at the bargaining table.
If someone is interested in joining the FLOC Homies Union
program, they can
Meinecke at 419-243-3456 or send an email to email@example.com