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Delancey Street is a non-profit self-help group for about 1500 drug addicts, alcoholics, prostitutes, ex-convicts, and others whose lives have hit bottom. In this community, residents learn to care for others, to develop values and self-reliance, gain some dignity for themselves, learn occupational skills, get an education, and earn a sense of self-worth so they can ultimately graduate from Delancey Street and make a legitimate and successful life in society. San Francisco is the headquarters with 500 residents; the other facilities are in Los Angeles, New Mexico, North Carolina and New York.

It is primarily a self-supporting, self-governing community maintained entirely by the men and women who come to Delancey for help, representing all racial, cultural and socioeconomic groups. Many residents come into Delancey Street upon referral from an agency of the criminal justice system. Interviews are conducted by other residents of Delancey Street who have been here long enough to understand Delancey’s values. Interviews are conducted on Delancey Street premises as well as in jails. It is important to tell the whole truth in your interview. Since we live as an extended family, we come to know all about each other. If someone lied in the interview, they are asked to leave, since admitting the truth about our lives and situations begins the process of change at Delancey Street. New residents are asked to make a two year commitment because we believe that is the minimal time required to really turn a life completely around which has spent years developing self-destructive patterns. The stay at Delancey Street is disciplined, serious business.

The first few months of Delancey Street are considered the “immigration” phase. Upon acceptance, men will have their hair trimmed to short length and become clean-shaven, and the women are asked to remove all makeup. Clothing is provided and the first focus is to turn around street and/or gang images and develop new self-concepts. These first few weeks are spent in maintenance jobs such as cleaning the facilities and serving meals. Residents are allowed to write immediate family after 30 days, and make a call after 90 days; however, they are generally encouraged to spend their time and energy in “immigration” getting to know those around them, and becoming involved in their new environment. Following that, letters, phone calls and visits are earned along with responsibilities and rewards.

The faster new residents learn good work habits and basic positive interaction skills, the more quickly they will earn their way out of maintenance and out of Immigration and into one of the numerous vocational training departments where they will learn vocational skills. Training schools, some of which generate income for the Foundation, provide job training in many areas including moving, the construction trades, auto maintenance, bookkeeping, culinary arts including café, restaurant and catering skills, sales, among numerous others. The focus is on learning to give, to get a good work ethic, and to help. Also, a strong emphasis is placed on academic education. Residents are tutored until they receive a high school equivalency degree, and numerous in-house classes are provided.

There are three primary rules:

  1. No physical violence;
  2. No threats of violence;
  3. 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.

There is no official staff at Delancey Street. Everyone who comes in works his or her way up into some sort of position in which he/she is learning a new job from the person over them who has held that job before, and teaching the job he/she has now to the newer resident. In this way, everyone at Delancey Street is pulling together toward the same goals. No one is simply a receiver; everyone is a giver as well. You are not coming to a program based on counseling. We have a strong work ethic and base our change on learning new ways of living by doing.

By jumping in to your two years at Delancey Street you’ll not only learn job skills and academics, learn to live drug-free and crime free, but you’ll learn to become somebody decent with integrity that people can look up to. Welcome to the Delancey Street journey.

Anyone who graduates from Delancey Street receives a formal written confirmation that they have completed the minimum two-year stay. Letters of recommendation (such as those for housing, jobs, etc.) are provided to graduates upon approval of the Foundation and are signed only by the president, Mimi H. Silbert, or the Secretary-Treasurer, Jerry Raymond.

If you are interested in reading about Delancey Street in more detail, click here to read the chapter from a book, written by our President, which is entitled “Delancey Street: Process of Mutual Restitution”.

Related Media

Margolis, Susan, "Untitled." New Times 9/5/75