Model Program - Delancey Street

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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  








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) 



















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 








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











Contact     contact information for sponsor of this policy or program 





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