Delancey Street Foundation

Rating: 4.06 stars   31 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

Rating: 5 stars  

14 people found this review helpful

[My involvement with] Delancey street started when Delancey Street started. I’ve always been involved in political issues, and prison reform was one of them, so it was kind of natural that I gravitated to Delancey Street. The moving company moved me several times and I went up to the place that they had in Pac Heights and I would be asked to lunch, and I started doing the weekend sessions—dissipations—where people just talk about their lives and get rid of a lot of the baggage that they carry around, mostly guilt. Everybody does at least one. And I helped to facilitate those. And I gradually became very involved, and I’m the only one who works this deeply with the program who has never lived here. I had a group then, a “tribe” they called it, and I had a father’s group about being biological fathers if not fathers in fact, and now the group that I run is just about men’s issues in general. When this building [the Delancey Street restaurant] was built I walked around it with Mimi [Silbert, President and CEO of Delancey Street] and realized that it was so much better than it had to be, in terms of its structure and its design. So Mimi said, why don’t you move in here, and I said I have a house, and she said no I mean your studio (I’m an illustrator). And after a lot of arguing about her not wanting me to pay rent and me insisting on it, I came to work here. I come to work here everyday now. You don’t know why you do something until after you’ve done it, sometimes. I realized, after a while, that my involvement here is largely selfish—I would rather surround myself with people who were trying to change, regardless of where they come from, than people who are middle aged bored, which a lot of people are. This is an exciting place to be. I came in this morning and a woman came up to me and said “Good Morning Dugald! We’re going camping!” and this is a woman who’s probably never been out of the ghetto where she was living, and she was genuinely excited about going camping. I love this place. *This review was collected by GreatNonprofits staff and entered on behalf of the reviewer

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

the success rate here is probably higher than almost anywhere else and really, you look at some of the people who come through here and you look at the whole world, and their attitude is different. Most of the people working in this restaurant had probably never been in a restaurant before this, or had never spoken to someone like you or me before this except to say "Stick em up," and to have them be kind and gentle is amazing. And to have this sense of community is amazing, and I think that they take that out with them into the world. But we're all on jury right now, and while they're here everyone is 100%, but people fall off the wagon, so it's dangerous to talk about success rates. One of the young men who was a gang banger in Fresno says that he does Delancey Street everyday. He's graduated, married, got a house, makes a good living, and he says "It's easy. I just do Delancey Street everyday."

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

I know that I would go insane. There's a restaurant, there's a café, there's catering, there's other businesses. There are 4 other Delancey Streets. I wouldn't be able to do it.

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

watching these people grow. The real friendships. My kids were basically brought up here. I’ve been around for 34, 35 years, so my kids, some of my best memories are here. I just love watching the people grow.

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

just what it’s doing right now. It’s the people. My own feeling is the number of people Delancey Street can serve is directly related to the number of people who have become qualified by living here, so you can’t just put 1,000 people here because there would be no one here to monitor them, to teach them the ropes. Now maybe they could continue with replications, teaching other people, not Delancey Street people, but other people, to do this. Me, I don’t think that this is an issue of money. It could always use donations, but it’s not like some of the little shelters that the budgets cuts are just killing. This doesn’t depend on that. It depends on the people. They make their own money.

Ways to make it better...

I have nothing to compare it with. It’s the only one I know. Every place has its failures. I always feel that if someone doesn’t make it through, if I know them, it’s my failure—I feel like there’s something that I could have said or done. I know that it’s egotistical, to think that I have that much effect on people’s lives. But Delancey Street, on a scale of 1-5, it’s still a 5, you know.

In my opinion, the biggest challenges facing this organization are...

Personally, I think the kind of drugs that are out there. Crack cocaine is probably the most addictive and most available drug out there. Also, the economy—this isn’t Delancey Street in particular, but the Delancey Street graduates who are looking for employment.

One thing I'd also say is that...

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