Homegirl from Lucy Nicholson on Vimeo.

It was Stephanie Lane’s first day on the job as a waitress at Homegirl Café and the last thing she wanted to do was wait on the police.

The restaurant, staffed by female gang members trying to leave their past behind, is part of Homeboy Industries, the largest gang intervention program – and one of the most successful – in the U.S.

Quitting a life of drug dealing, fighting and stealing cars on the streets of South Los Angeles, where she followed her father and mother into the Crips gang, is not easy and now Lane faced the first of many tests: the police chief and top brass were growing impatient waiting for service.

Waitress Stephanie Lane, 21, waits for a lunch order at Homegirl Cafe in Los Angeles, April 23, 2010.  REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

“No girls wanted to take their order,” Lane says. “They’re the reason all of us have been through what we’ve been through.”

Lane glowered as she approached the table. She knew they’d be looking at her tattoos, sizing her up. She trained her eyes on her pad as she took their drink order. A hand suddenly grabbed her arm and the chief was looking at her.