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Model Program - Delancey Street

Page history last edited by Kamran Hakiman 9 years ago

     Note: please note that this profile of a policy option or program model should (a) link back to the issue overview on this topic, (b) be focused either the local, state, national, or global level, and (c) be neutrally presented, based on facts, and include footnotes for each of the items.  See the Research Guide and Information Sources to assist you.


This policy option or model program profile relates to the following issue overview(s): Prison Re-Entry



Summary    one paragraph description 

Delancey street describes themselves as "a community where people with no where to turn, turn their lives around."  

       Delancey Street is the country's leading residential self-help organization for former substance abusers, ex-convicts, homeless and others who have hit bottom. Started in 1971 with 4 people in a San Francisco apartment with a $1000 loan, Delancey Street has served many thousands of residents, in five locations throughout the United States-New Mexico, New York, California (both LA and San Francisco), and Massachusetts.  Residents at Delancey Street range from teenagers to senior citizens, and include men and women and all races and ethnicities. The average resident has been a hard-core drug and alcohol abuser, has been in prison, is unskilled, functionally illiterate, and has a personal history of violence and generations of poverty.

Delancey Street takes applicants who in many ways have hit bottom. Potential program participants are from prison, jail, or walk-ins who express some type of life battle, whether with substance abuse or criminal activity. Residents who have been at Delancey Street awhile interview all applicants. The minimum stay is 2 years; the average stay is 4 years. We have 3 rules: no drugs or alcohol, no physical violence, and no threats of violence.

The program runs like an extended family where everyone is expected to contribute. There are no set salaries, including the President's.  

     Delancey Street starts by teaching some of the personal skills needed to break through bad habits and interact with others successfully. When ready, residents enter one of the organizations employment  training schools and rehabilitation courses – where with training in G.E.D. and other educational skills is provided by staff and even more experienced residents. At Delancey Street, participants  start at the bottom and work their way up. In the restaurant, for example, one can go from dishwasher to prep cook to line cook to managing chef.



 Delancey Street San Francisco Video Tour



      Tutoring is offered to residents to complete a high school equivalency education followed by college courses, and for those who stay 3 years, they have a post secondary academy accredited by the State of California. Delancey Street’s own residents do the teaching and tutoring. As in their vocational training, the method is “each-one-teach-one”. If you read at an eighth grade level, you can teach someone who reads at a sixth grade level – and you get better by helping others. The organization has partnered with San Francisco State University, for an Urban Studies Bachelor’s Degree program, and Golden Gate University, with our own, chartered campus for those who stay longer at Delancey.

     As the foundation's academic and vocational training facilities and courses expanded, Delancy Street began to run their programs on a semester system.  Just  like the best universities, people can take a “semester abroad” and move to one of Delancey Street's nationwide locations to gain more experience and perspective of transitioning into another work force. Our bus goes from facility to facility each semester allowing someone who entered in New Mexico to spend a semester in New York and someone who entered in North Carolina to spend a semester in Los Angeles, etc. 

We learn about ourselves and how to develop our strengths, not through therapy groups, but through actually practicing life skills, living, working, and interacting in the community. When mistakes are made, we learn to acknowledge them, take the consequences (our punishment is extra work, usually doing the dishes) and most importantly, because we are in a safe environment we can fix the mistakes. In this way, we replace old self-destructive habits with new strengths, talents, and a sense of responsibility."

When ready to graduate from Delancey Street, residents get a job and live in and work out for several months, saving their money in the Delancey-managed credit union, and paying rent until they can move on to continue their new lives in the mainstream of society. 

The organization has maximized the definition of community support  through a serious of well-organized  reintegrative services, which has transpired into a successful prison reentry program, and multi millions dollar business cycle. 






Goal    short description of the policy or program goal  


  • The objective statement of Delancey Street is to "enter with a history, leave with a future." For many of Delancey participants, this program is the "last chance" to rehabilitate and get one's life on a healthy, crime free track. Therefore, Delancey Street sets high expectations within their programs which has worked very well in providing their participants with the responsibility to take control of their lives and disregard reoffending or drug use.  


  • The goal of Delancey Street is to make their whole organization a sort of  community filled with life, encouragement, and respect, where everyone contributes to the development of each other, understanding problems outside of their own and improving for the greater good. For over 40 years the organization has been developing a model of social entrepreneurship, of education, of rehabilitation and change that is exciting and full of hope.


  • Delancey Street describes their programs to instill a mindset of, "Almost there, Almost working, but never quiet there". The goal is to gather your own courage to take on the world independently where Delancey Street is only the first step to creating a successful, reintegrative life of self respect, wealth, and happiness. 


  • The organization's programs educate participants on different strategies on how to learn to lead a productive crime-free/drug-free life of purpose and integrity. Everyone learns a marketable skill (the goal is 3 skills), and earns at least a high school equivalency degree. Advanced education is also available within the Delancey Community. 




Cost    total policy or program cost; also include per person cost if available 

     Financially and operationally, the five Residential Educational Communities operate in identical fashion, and are completely resident-governed under the direction of President Mimi Silbert and accountable to the Board of Directors. Typically, between 55%-65% of the operating funds come from pooling the incomes from the resident-run training schools such as moving and catering; 25%-35% of the funds come from donations of product or services primarily from corporations; and about 5%-15% of the funds are provided by financial donations from individuals and foundations. All five of the Residential Educational Communities are operated on an all-volunteer basis. No salaries are paid.


On our most recent audited statement 98.6% of our expenditures were allocated to programs, and only 1.4% to administration and funding.

Legally, Delancey CIRCLE is a separate division within the same DSF non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation, run by President/CEO, Mimi Silbert and accountable to the DSF Board of Directors. Financially and operationally, the Delancey CIRCLE division operates in a slightly more traditional non-profit fashion.[1]


For More Information:

Delancey Street 990 Tax Form-2008













Implementation    describe how the policy or program is implemented (esp. who, how) 

  •  The minimum stay at Delancey Street is 2 years while the average resident remains for almost 4 years – drug, alcohol and crime-free. During their time at Delancey Street, residents receive a high school equivalency degree (GED) and are trained in 3 different marketable skills. Beyond academic and vocational training, residents learn important values, and the social and interpersonal skills that allow them to live successfully in the mainstream of society.
  • Similar to Boaz & Ruth as well as Peter Young Housing programs; any act of violence, or threat of violence, is cause for immediate removal from Delancey Street. Interestingly, former gang members, who have sworn to kill each other, live and work together peacefully starting in dorm-rooms and moving up into their own apartments. Residents learn to work together promoting non-violence through a principle called “each-one-teach-one” where each new resident is responsible for helping guide the next arrival.
  • There is an interview process where the key qualification is that the applicant expresses their need for help and willingness to correct their life.  


  •  The organization functions on several principles:
    • 1) We have developed an educational model rather than a therapeutic model to solve social problems. It is a total learning center in which every aspect of life is taught by residents to residents on an “each one teach one” principle, where older residents help newer ones and everyone works. With regard to academic education for example, the resident who reads at a tenth grade level tutors one who reads at an eighth grade level, who tutors another who reads at a fourth grade level, who tutors another who is just learning the alphabet. Through this model we provide basic high school learning, all the way through our own in-house Bachelor of Arts program which is accomplished hand-in-hand with accredited universities.
    • 2) Delancey Street functions not as a “program” but as an extended family and as a community in which everyone is an important giver as well as receiver in the process of changing their lives. The organization is completely self-governed with councils of residents dealing with one another on issues such as housing, rule violations, education, and the like. We have never accepted any government funds for our operations nor do we have any staff. No salaries are paid, not even to the President of the Foundation, we pool all our resources.
    • 3) Economic development and social entrepreneurial boldness are central to the model’s self-sufficiency. They are also central to teaching the disenfranchised to develop their talents and strengths and not simply to focus on their problems, and thereby gain empowerment, self-reliance and a strong sense of pride and dignity in their own achievements. Each resident at Delancey Street learns three marketable skills by working in Delancey Street training schools. These include one manual, one clerical/computer and one interpersonal/sales skill. For most residents who have never held a job in their lives, this is as challenging as it is rewarding. The vocational training schools are managed and taught by residents themselves (some are accredited by the State, and the residents themselves are the accredited teachers). Some of the training schools generate the funding that supports Delancey Street’s activities. Current vocational programs include:
    • Accounting and bookkeeping
    • Advertising specialty sales
    • Automotive, mechanical, repair and painting
    • Catering, event and wedding planning
    • Christmas tree sales and commercial decorating
    • Coffee house, art gallery and bookstore
    • Construction and property management
    • Digital printing and banners, silk screen and framing
    • Film screening and projection
    • Handcrafted wood terrariums, ironworks, and furniture
    • Moving and trucking
    • Paratransit and limousine transportation services for businesses as well as for those who are disabled who cannot use public transportation
    • Restaurant
    • Upholstry/Sewing
    • Warehousing
  • 4) Delancey Street’s focus is value based with a strong traditional family value system stressing the work ethic, mutual restitution, social and personal accountability and responsibility, decency and integrity. Most important, the approach stresses the fact that the people who are the problem can become the solution by caring for one another. This pro bono publico approach is central and critical to our model. In line with this, our residents not only volunteer to teach and work with one another, they also volunteer in the community helping others that are less fortunate through a series of service programs for the elderly, handicapped, at-risk youths, among others.
  • In 1990 Delancey pioneered a new neighborhood by completing construction of an expanded and centralized home on the waterfront in San Francisco. This 400,000 square foot complex was primarily built and supervised by Delancey residents. President Mimi Silbert was the developer and Delancey Street was its own general contractor for this unique development called “a masterpiece of social design” by Pulitzer prize winning architectural critic, Allen Temko. Covering an entire city block, this four story complex contains street level retail stores, a highly acclaimed public restaurant, a screening room written up as one of the top three in San Francisco, a highly reviewed café bookstore and art gallery, housing units for 500 that overlook a Mediterranean-style courtyard which also holds a vast array of educational and recreation facilities for the residents. This was an unprecedented vocational training program, providing over 300 formerly unemployable drug addicts, homeless people and ex-felons in Delancey Street every skill in the building trades (with the support of the Building Trade Unions) as well as training in purchasing, contracting, computer and accounting services. Numerous of these training schools have been voted “best” in their areas!


  •  Delancey Street Mentoring Model: The Delancey Street model has turned numerous lives around. With over 14,000 program graduates nation wide who have went on to live succesful lives as lawyers, truck drivers, salespeople, the various medical professions, realtors, mechanics, contractors, and even a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, the President of the San Francisco Housing Commission, a Deputy Coroner, a Fire Department Captain, and a Deputy Sheriff, the organization has set no limit on reintegration through community mentoring and education.
  • Delancey Street is value-based in a strong traditional family value system stressing the work ethic, mutual restitution, personal and social accountability and responsibility, decency, integrity and caring for others in a pro bono publico approach. [2] Although most of the residents enter the program illiterate, unskilled, and anti-social, they undergo a serious of training and community building that enables them to graduate the program with at least a high school GED. The organization's model of mentoring to reduce recidivism rates emphasiizes a "family" approach where the current residents are a part of the transition process for incoming residents. The organization places all participants responsible for the success of each other by allowing ex-offenders to integrate together, connecting through their past experiences. Once one has expressed a certain level of responsibility and growth, he or she is given the opportunity work with other participants, whether through tutoring a G.E.D. course, interviewing applicants, or assisting on leading housing projects. Delancey Street's programs of prison reentry menortoing are made up of: 
    • Functions as an "each one, teach one" model where participants tutor & teach courses. 
    • Organized Class Groups where residents transition through the programs together.  
    • Community Housing where participants live together for the duration of the program.
    • Transitional Employment Centers managed by residents.
    • Family themed social events and program models.  


  • The organization's programs are lead by are three primary rules:
    • No physical violence;
    • No threats of violence;
    • No drugs or alcohol.
  • "Anyone breaking these rules will be asked to leave. Other problems are punished by extra work such as washing dishes. We believe in teaching people to admit their mistakes, fix them, and move forward."[3] 
















Evaluation    summarize any evaluation findings that policy or program effectiveness


Due to the tremendous barriers that Delencey Street has broken through creating communities built from a foundation of second change, hope, and forgiveness, the organization receives numerous recognition as the leading criminal advocacy foundation in the country. 



Status    indicate whether this policy or program has been adopted in more locations or remains a proposal 


  • After 40 years, Delancey Street still continues take "societies absolute worst; ex-felons, prostitutes, and drug abusers" and provide them with opportunity, resources, and a second chance to become the best citizen amongst their life circumstance. Delancey Street's vocational, academic, and social skills programs still manages to be one of the strongest prison reentry foundations in the country. More then 14,000 Delancey graduates are fully integrated back into society, paying taxes, and leading great careers as lawyers, realtors, truch drivers, medical professionals, and other various fields. [4]
  • Delancey Street has five homes around the country: a 17 acre ranch in rural New Mexico; a large castle, carriage house, and two other homes on 50 acres in Brewster, New York; a small lovely home on Fisher Hill in Greensboro, North Carolina; a former Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles, California; and, our headquarters that we built ourselves, a beautiful Mediterranean style housing complex for 500 on the waterfront in San Francisco, California. Each is in a wonderful neighborhood, and the residents are active participants in their communities.


  •   Delancey Street Foundation Los Angeles: The facility is located near midtown, right off the Hollywood freeway. The facility, housing approximately 300 residents, was constructed as a 220 room hotel; the Mission style building complex includes a huge ballroom for catering events for up to 500 people, with smaller catering rooms as well. The buildings surround a large 8,000 square foot tropical garden with cascading waterfalls. Residents have completely renovated the building since we bought it in 1993. In order to make the hotel more of a home, residents turned the guest rooms into living units ranging from dorms for the newcomers into small apartments as residents earn their way to more spacious living quarters, and opened up the dining area to 6,000 square feet for resident meals. Delancey Street-Los Angeles also has a 50,000 square foot warehouse business complex located in Montebello. This complex houses a number of Delancey Training Schools including Moving & Trucking, Automotive, Auto Body Shop, Warehouse Shipping and Receiving, Terrarium, Ceramics and Iron Handcraft Works and Sales.[5]


  •   Delancey Street Foundation New Mexico: The facility is located in the heart of the San Juan Pueblo (reservation). Purchased in 1976, it’s a 17-acre ranch set in the historically rich Espanola Valley between Santa Fe and Taos. The ranch is Delancey’s only rural home. Adobe buildings surround courtyards with hanging wisteria vines, authentic vegas in the ceilings, and a small “swan lake” surrounded by weeping willows and rose gardens. The beautiful property along with the original sculptures donated by R.C. Gorman and blooming rose gardens help make our ranch a magnificent venue for Delancey Catering. Catering is one of the key vocational skills taught here, along with culinary arts, retail sales, accounting, bookkeeping, hand-crafted furniture, ceramics, terrariums and sand paintings, moving and trucking, construction and property management. The rural nature of the location allows programs  to include waste water management, live stock department, and a more sophisticated landscaping in the vocational training programs. In addition to renovating the numerous existing adobe structures on the property, residents also built a 38,000 square foot warehouse including offices and shops in the same Santa Fe style as the residential buildings as well as several more dorm buildings. Additionally, our unique placement in the San Juan Pueblo has afforded us the opportunity to learn Native American arts and dance.[6]
  •   Delancey Street New York: Residents live on 50 acres in Brewster, New York (slightly more than an hour north of New York City and 2 miles below the Danbury, Connecticut border). The property houses a grand castle, Morningthorpe Manor, that is listed on the state historic register, with 22 rooms, 13 fireplaces, turrets, and a stone wall encircling the property. The oldest building on the grounds is the Gables, constructed in 1773 where male residents are now housed. Construction was begun on the adjacent castle in 1860 and completed by 1894. The owner/builder was Seth B. Howe, a real estate magnate, who was also the accountant for the Ringling Brothers/Barnum & Bailey Circus. He housed circus animals in the Carriage House at the turn of the century. Other buildings on the property include the Spring Cottage, the Clock Tower which holds numerous offices, and a Stone Cutter Shed where they cut the granite stones to construct the castle. The castle floors are all hardwood and there is beautiful woodwork that is continually re-done. Residents found the original plans for the property when they purchased the building in 1980 and completely renovated and restored it to its original grandeur. Residents learn the culinary arts, moving and trucking, hand crafted terrariums, ceramics and woodworking, as well as construction, accounting, automotive repair, antique refinishing and Christmas sales and decorating.[7]
  • Program Participants are allowed to take "semesters" at one of other the Delancey Street homes, to get full perspective of the program and the opportunity to work in another state.  
  •  Delancey Street: Community Leadership Award 2003





Point of View    quotations from those in support or opposition to this policy or program 

  •  "Not only has this foundation been named the most successful rehabilitation project in the United States- turning over 14,000 lives around and counting but equally importantly, Delancey is self-sustaining and has accepted no governmental grant since its founding. Instead, it has grown into a 20 million dollar empire through the launching of a series of small businesses which provide necessary operational capital as well as providing a basic training ground for residents to acquire rudimentary entrepreneurial and business skills."-Naiomi, SocialEarth News Magazine 


  • "Most important of all, Delancey Street shows that ordinary people can transform extraordinary-even impossible dreams into reality by pooling their resources, supporting one another and living lives of purpose and integrity."-Score News  


  •  "My name is John Jacobs and,if I was'nt a husband, father and grandfather I would never have left Delancy Street. Because of Delancy Street I am all of the above but better than that, Delancy Street taught me to give a damm...not only about my life but "your's Too"! Since I left Delancy Street I have received my degree from USF and worked at the Haight Ashbury Free Clinic. I have been clean since 1990 and, today I work at the same parole office that, I used to report too. Delancy Street gave me a new life and,a new attitude! For me, Delancy is not just a place but, a way of life that needs to be practiced in every town, village and ghetto in the country or.....the world for that matter. Delancy Street through tough love, taught me to love myself by being honest to myself and others. I also was blessed by the family environment that is Delancy Street. I would like to take time to thank all of the Delancy Street family (the abe's, the terrie's, the charlottes, the dick's and, the ray's, my peers)that helped me change my dippers and fed me until, I was able to feed and change myself! But, more than that, " thank you MIMI for Dugal's input and for, having faith in me. Delancy Street Foundation is not a program..."IT's A WAY OF LIFE'!"-John Adams, Delancey Street 09'.


  • "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."-Casey, Delencey Street Graduate, 09'. 


  • After spending most of my young and adult life in and out of jails and institutions. Delancey Street took me in, showed me love and provided hope. I stayed there for 10 years, learning, growing and doing what I could to make the world a better place. Delancey Street believes in second chances. I got that second chance and I am grateful to everyone there. Thank you from the bottom of my heart."-Sandra, Delancey Street Program Graduate.







Contact     contact information for sponsor of this policy or program 


  • Delancey Street: San Francisco: Headquarters 
    • 600 Embarcadero San Francisco, CA 94107
    • p: 415-5120-5194
  • Delancey Street: Los Angeles
    • 400 N. Vermont Street Los Angeles, CA 90004
    • p: 323-662-4888 
  • Delancey Street: New Mexico  
    • P.O. Box 1240 San Juan Pueblo, NM 87566
    • p: 505-852-4291
  • Delancey Street: North Carolina
    • 811 N. Elm Street Greensboro, NC 27401
    • p: 336-379-8477
  • Delancey Street: New York
    • 100 Turk Hill Road Brewster, NY 10509
    • p: 845-278-6181




Bibliography    link to any additional readings or websites related to this policy or program 




  1. http://www.delanceystreetfoundation.org/faq.php#
  2. http://www.delanceystreetfoundation.org/wwb.php
  3. http://www.delanceystreetfoundation.org/admexpect.php
  4. http://www.delanceystreetfoundation.org/pdf/2006/passionaries.pdf
  5. http://www.delanceystreetfoundation.org/facla.php
  6. http://www.delanceystreetfoundation.org/facnm.php
  7. http://www.delanceystreetfoundation.org/facny.php

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