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The Delancey Street Foundation, often simply referred to as Delancey Street, is a non-profit organization based in San Francisco that provides residential rehabilitation services and vocational training for substance abusers and convicted criminals. It reintegrates its residents into mainstream society by operating various businesses - such as restaurants, moving companies, and print shops - all of which are wholly managed and run by the residents themselves. The foundation's methods have been widely praised and have been emulated internationally.


John Maher and Mimi Silbert were the principal founders of Delancey Street in 1971. Maher (1940-1988) was a self-proclaimed "bum" and drug addict and former member of Synanon who was the subject of two books, a television movie and a segment of "60 Minutes." Silbert, a Boston-bred criminologist from UC Berkeley, began running the foundation in 1985.

Within a year of its founding, the Delancey Street community had grown to 100 members. By 2000, there were 500 residents in San Francisco, living in a self-contained group of 177 apartments. [1] The complex was built between 1989 and 1990 by Delancey Street residents. [2]

In 1993, the foundation bought the defunct Midtown Hilton hotel on Vermont Avenue in Los Angeles, and reopened it as Delancey Street Los Angeles.


As of the early 1990s, the average Delancey Street resident has had 12 years of drug addiction, has been in prison four times, is functionally illiterate, unskilled and has never worked for more than six months. "People who have become involved with gangs, drugs, violence, crime . . . those are our favorite residents," Silbert said in 1993. In 2000, the BBC reported that “All of the staff are ex-offenders who, on average, have each been in prison four times and used drugs for more than ten years.”[1]

Residents can participate in a special degree program, begun in spring 2000, through San Francisco State University, with free classes that are taught on-site by volunteers. [3] There is a complete ban on alcohol, drugs and threatening behaviour by residents.[1]

As of 2003, about half of the $15 million annual operating costs of the organization came from a variety of businesses it owned and operated.[4] As of that year, more than 10,000 ex-cons and the homeless had been provided with housing, food, and a job at one of the many businesses the foundation operated.[5]



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Bob Howard, “Charm school for offenders”, BBC, September 6, 2000
  2. Jane Gross, “San Francisco Journal: Where Life's 'Losers' Are Building New Lives”, New York Times, March 1, 1989
  3. Tanya Schevitz, “Rising from the ashes: Recovered addicts earn college degrees”, San Francisco Chronicle, June 10, 2004
  4. “San Francisco Foundation To Help Set Up Program For Ex-Offenders”,, February 24, 2003
  5. Jeremiah A. Hall, “Non-Profits Make Strides in Start-Up Arena, Christian Science Monitor, March 10, 2003

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