Delancey Street Foundation

Rating: 4.17 stars   30 reviews


600 Embarcadero St San Francisco CA 94107 USA


The mission of the Delancey Street Foundation is to reverse the debilitating effects of generational poverty, teach non-violence, rehabilitate criminals and substance abusers and move people into economic self-sufficiency; to build a residential educational community which is self-governed and to teach academic and vocational skills, interpersonal and social skills, personal awareness, values and habits to establish a life of integrity and purpose in the mainstream of society drug-free and crime-free, successfully and legitimately.


In 1971 Delancey Street began with 4 residents, a thousand dollar loan, and a dream to develop a new model to turn around the lives of substance abusers, former felons, and others who have hit bottom by empowering the people with the problems to become their own solution. Thirty-seven years later we remain true to our mission. We have been taking in as residents representatives of our society’s most serious social problems and, by a process of each one helping another, with no professionals, no government funding, and at no charge to the clients, we have been solving these problems: generations of poverty, illiteracy, lack of job skills, hardcore substance abuse, homelessness, repeat felons, gang members, teen pregnancies, perpetrators and victims of every kind of abuse. After an average of 4 years, our residents gain academic education, 3 marketable skills, accountability and responsibility, dignity, decency and integrity. We have successfully graduated over 15,000 people from America’s underclass into society as successful taxpaying, citizens leading decent, legitimate and productive lives. We have pioneered new models of education: • Over 10,000 formerly illiterate people have received high school equivalency degrees • Over 1000 have graduated with a diploma from our state accredited post-secondary vocational three year program taught by our own residents. • Fifty students have received an accredited BA either in Human Relations from our chartered college campus through Golden Gate University or majoring in Delancey’s Urban Studies program through San Francisco State University. • Over students have graduated from our ten-year-old charter public high school for juvenile justice youths, 50% of whom have gone on to college; 5% to vocational schools; 3% to the military and the other 42% into career jobs. This is remarkable considering that 90% entered our school as dropouts and complete school failures. We have pioneered pathways out of violence, bigotry and hatred:  • Delancey has moved over 10,000 violent, racial gang members away from gangs into active non-violence. • Over 5,000 Delancey folks have mentored others teaching non-violence and inter-racial mediation. • Delancey is completely self-governed by a Board and resident councils that are 1/3 African American, 1/3 Hispanic/American Indian and 1/3 Anglo, as is our population. Women comprise about 25% of the population and about 30 to 40%of management.  We have pioneered programs out of homelessness: • Through complete sweat equity, we have built and/or remodeled over 1500 units of very low-income housing built by the residents themselves with union support training over 800 people in the building trades throughout our 35 years. • We have moved over 2000 homeless people into permanent housing. • Our high school students renovated their own school expanding it from 8,000 square feet to 24,000 square feet. We have pioneered an entrepreneurial pathway out of poverty. • We have successfully developed over 20 enterprises run completely by formerly unskilled people using the each-one-teach-one philosophy. • We have pooled our resources so that our enterprises have provided about 60% of the funding and growth of our organization. We have now grown to have facilities in New Mexico, North Carolina, New York, Los Angeles, and headquartered in San Francisco. We have received over 100 commendations and awards from presidents, governors, mayors, legislative bodies, professional, religious, community, housing, and business groups in all the areas in which we reside. We have been commended in the media in over 30 major news and magazine programs such as 60 Minutes, 20/20, John Stossel Specials, World News Tonight with Peter Jennings, PBS Special on Crime and Alternatives, Street Stories with Ed Bradley, Oprah Winfrey Prime Time Special on Self-Esteem, Good Morning America, among many others. We have been commended in the written media in well over 200 articles in our 35 years ranging from the Chronicle of Philanthropy, through Fast Company Magazine through the New York Times, the Washington Post, Parade Magazine, Reader’s Digest, People Magazine, Newsweek, The London Times, Financial Times.  We have been studied viewed and reviewed by a wide variety of researchers. The results are summarized by Dr. Karl Menninger, founder of Menninger Clinic who, after a 10-year follow up study stated, “Delancey Street is the best and most successful rehabilitation program I have studied in the world”.  While we are of course proud of our achievements, particularly because all have been accomplished by our residents themselves at no cost to the taxpayer or the client, we believe that because of our successes we have a larger responsibility to see that the mission of Delancey Street extends beyond reclaiming individual lives.

Target demographics:

The population served by Delancey Street are adults who have hit bottom, are poor, homeless, substance abusers, been incarcerated, and are often illiterate and unskilled.

Direct beneficiaries per year:


Geographic areas served:

United States


The program served an average population of 650 former drug/alcohol abusers, homeless and others. The program provides long term residential housing, on-the-job training, education,and basic life skills on a 24-hour basis for a minimum 2 year period. Senior residents serve as "staff" and no salaries are paid. Many residents receive high school equivalency or above. All who graduated have obtained gainful employment and have returned to various communities as decent, law-abiding individuals.

delancey street california operates a short-term supporting living environment, san francisco strong. It houses 15 men returning from incarceration in jail or prison in cooperation with the san francisco district attorney's office. Participants can stay from two weeks to one year. Services provided include housing, food, job referrals, life skills groups, transportation, and referrals for substance abuse counseling. Graduates of delancey street california's core program staff the facility.

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Reviews for Delancey Street Foundation

Role: Professional with expertise in this field
Rating: 5 stars  

10 people found this review helpful

chunhsia - Let me assure you that your questioning is understood, but unfounded. In 1997, when I graduated from college with a Criminal Justice degree, I contacted Delancy Street after watching an episode of 60 Minutes discuss this organization. I was granted what few people are, entrance to Delancy Street and a tour. I work in probation today and have a masters in Criminal Justice. This organization does what no other does, and that is make the offender accountable for their actions. They took people who kept reoffending and going back to prison repeatedly, and taught them another way. They have "locked" apartments for the first year people, and yes their rules are strict, as another other treatment facility. The offender has to go to school to finish high school or on to college if they want. They have a restaurant, award winning, where the prison begins at the bottom rung and works their way up to manager to teach them every aspect of the job. The same with their moving company, printing business and wedding business. The current facility was designed by an offender who graduated from college with a degree in architecture. Offenders run the entire place, and no one who has not offended can work there. They are in almost every major city with a prison facility to accommodate the families visiting. After the first year, if the offender is working the program, they move to an unlocked apartment in the complex and have no restrictions. I work in TX, and there is nothing like this. The premise of Delancy Street was no government involvement. You see, a government facility cannot mandate that a prisoner attend school or work. So when you find someone leaving a facility after 10, 15, 20 or longer years, they have no idea what a cell phone is, very little familiarity with the internet, the latest trends, or any job skill. They are given, at most, $300 a black garbage sack and told not to come back. There is no counseling offered for the rapes the prisoner has endured in prison, the lack of social skills, the lack of any accountability of getting up and being on time for work or school, and they have never accounted to anyone except the prison boss. Delancy Street is and was the most positive place I have visited in my 20 years in this business. I feel if every prison were run the way they run Delancy Street, we would not have the recidivism rate we do now, and we would not have as angry former prison population living outside of prison today.

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Role: Professional with expertise in this field
Rating: 5 stars  

12 people found this review helpful

I moved here [to San Francisco] from San Diego at the time when Delancey Street was helping San Francisco to reform its juvenile justice system. The then-mayor Mayor Brown had approached Delancey Street because they’d had such obvious success with their previous programs. I was hired as one of the very small group of people working on the program who wasn’t a Delancey Street resident. That was in 1997. I worked for two and a half years on that, and then I worked with them opening up the school that they have on Treasure Island. I met my husband here—he was also brought here to work on the project. And so I had this amazing experience to be able to work everyday with the residents and the people in this program. It’s an incredible experience to be able to come here to work everyday. There’s such a deep and pervasive spirit here for positive change, and you can’t get that anywhere else. I have kind of an outsider’s inside perspective. *This review was collected by GreatNonprofits staff and entered on behalf of the reviewer

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

On a personal level I have gotten to know a lot of participants in the Delancey Street program and see them stay and be real leaders or leave and go out into the community and be real forces for positive change. I've obviously heard a lot of people's personal stories about how this program really turned their lives around, especially since I worked in the Mayor's office and then the DA's office, and Delancey Street regarded as an authority. The city looks to it for pressing issues like prison reentry and things like that. And thorugout San Francisco people have different levels of knowledge about Delancey Street--some know it as the restaurant, some know it as the Christmas trees, and, of course, there are people who specifically come to this restaurant because they know it supports Delancey Street. It's also just so great at challenging and changing people's perceptions. I was here one day years ago with a couple of police officers and one of them was so nervous and he kept looking around. And just as our server came he asked me “Where are all the criminals?” I pointed up to the guy with our food, and it was just a really funny experience. It just goes to show how this place challenges people’s perceptions.

What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

A lot of people here are total characters. What I really enjoyed was the strong sense of community, such a strong sense that people can really make changes in their lives if they have the motivation and the support. It’s such a positive environment to be in. Some of the positive culture here can rub off on everybody. I have also always been so impressed with the work ethic here—people work such long hours and work so hard here. Working here with people, I’ve seen that, and with the moving company—they moved my family this May, during the hottest day of the year, a thousand stairs, and they did it. As a business interaction, I’ve always loved their professionalism. I also love the sense of humor here—they have a sense of humor about themselves and about where they came from.

If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...

I don’t know what their priorities would be. Obviously there’s a balance here—you don’t want to lose the intimacy of the community, but also you have more and more people lined up at the door. Part of me wants to say serve more people, but I don’t know if that would dilute the magic of the place.

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