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Delancey Street Foundation

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Job Training, Vocational Rehabilitation

Mission: 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.

Results: 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: 1,500

Geographic areas served: United States

Programs: 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.

Community Stories

4 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters



Rating: 5

My twin brother is currently in delancey street. I feel that the lengthy blackout period is a wonderful idea. Unfortunately we as the family or friends of the addict think it's cruel but we aren't the ones who hit bottom. Yes the program is hard but it pushes people beyond their known limit. They have the blackout and it gives them time to reflect, accept things, take personal inventory without outside inputs, and ultimately they find out who they truly are and what they really want. Sometimes we have to cut our ties with the outside world to renew ourself and rebuild our life. Work on there self first that way after a year when we do hear from them they're not only strong enough to handle life but have become a new person with a future. I am thankful for this program it has saved my brother's life.



Rating: 5

Delancey Street is the "Love" of my life. I went into Delancey Street with a black eye, 7 broken ribs& a broken hand. I had no job skills, no socialization skills, all I knew how to do was shoot herion and prostitute since 13 yrs. old. Delancey Street not only saved my life, they gave me one. Someone sat in the hospital w/me for weeks while I was kicking a methadone habit of 7 yrs. Then they took me into their home. I had got beat up by a pimp, saw Mimi Silbert on TV talking about a prostitution survey they were doing in S.F., they took me in, nursed me back to health, and taught me how to live. I have no doubt in my mind that if it wasn't for Delancey Street, I would be dead or in prison. I've been clean for 27 yrs. thanks to Mimi Silbert and the people that dedicate their lives to helping other people. I could never thank them enough.



Rating: 5

I was a resident of the Delancey Street Foundation from 1989 to 1994. I spent time at the New Mexico and San Francisco. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind whatsoever that, had it not been for Delancey Street, I would either be dead or in prison today. Simply put, Delancey Street saved my life. Going through Delancey Street was the most difficult thing I have ever done in my life but all of the hard work has completely turned my life around and today I am living a drug free and very productive life. I believe that you get out of Delancey Street what you put into it. If you work hard, listen to the people at Delancey Street who are teaching you, and give it your all the chances of being successful are high. If you take shortcuts and simply staying out of prison is your main motivation then you will probably be back on drugs shortly after you leave. I think one of the things that made a big difference for me at Delancey Street was the fact that I actually worked to pay for my stay at Delancey Street rather than relying on insurance or parents or some other form of funding. This, to me, is one of the main guiding principles of Delancey Street and that is self-sufficiency. They can teach it because they practice it! Delancey Street receives no government funding that I am aware of and earns all of its money by operating businesses that are run by the residents themselves. I love Delancey Street! I have many friends from my time at Delancey Street that are leading productive and sober lives. I have my life back. Today I am happily married and running my own business. The relationships with my family and friends have all been healed. I have created a very strong support system for my continued recovery and I am happier than I have ever been. I owe much of who I am today and what I have accomplished to Mimi, Charlotte, Jack and some of the other special people at Delancey Street!



Rating: 5

I was a resident of Delancey Street’s San Francisco facility for nearly 10 years, following 10 years in and out of San Quentin. I truly thought I had thrown my life away and there was no way to get it back. You get so mired in the whole lifestyle, there just seems to be no hope. As I was going to court for (yet another) conviction, I knew I needed to make some change, and I knew it had to be something serious. At 45, I had just about lost all hope. The life-changing effect Delancey Street had on me is nothing short of miraculous. I went there not knowing what to expect, and stayed for 10 years in order to help others have the opportunity I was given. It’s a pretty simple format: you’re given respect, and are expected to give others the same. Granted, Delancey Street may not be for everyone. You have to be trusting and willing to accept responsibility and live your life with some dignity. I was very fortunate to be part of a pilot project with San Francisco State University and earned a bachelors degree in Urban Studies, which I have used to help secure my position with UCSF. My boss, a former Chancellor here, when hearing my response about where I had worked previously, said, “How was I so lucky to get someone from Delancey Street?” That’s just how well respected Delancey Street is here in the Bay Area. I have a close group of friends (some former residents, others not), and very active in many community organizations, and am enjoying a life I thought no longer possible.