Homeboy Industries, the Los Angeles institution whose mission for more than 20 years has been to turn jobs into a recipe for saving the lives of gang members, laid off most of its employees Thursday because of crushing financial problems.

Father Gregory Boyle, who started Homeboy Industries in Boyle Heights during the height of the city's gang wars, said 300 people were laid off, including all senior staff and administrators. Boyle said he has stopped taking a paycheck.

For two decades, Homeboy Industries has offered counseling, removed tattoos and helped gang members find jobs. Its motto: "Nothing stops a bullet like a job."

But Boyle said no amount of campaigning and fundraising could make up the roughly $5 million the organization needed to operate. He said pleas for donations had resulted in some help, but not nearly enough. He acknowledged that the people Homeboy Industries helps have always been a hard sell, and more so when the economy is struggling.

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