A criminal rehab centre which accepts no grant money and where residents pay no fees

“The Delancey Street Foundation in San Francisco puts hardened criminals – including thieves and murderers – in charge of their own recovery and it doesn’t take a penny in grant money from the United States government.

Instead the residents support themselves – and each other – by running a string of businesses including a gourmet restaurant. It is a 500-strong family, and – much like a normal family – the punishment for those who step out of line is washing the dishes.” Read more..


What a fantastic concept, and it works because everything is done to meet the resident’s needs for status, meaning, a feeling of being stretched, feeling part of a wider community, attention, control and security.

Perhaps this is the answer to our current prison crisis!

Posted by: Eleanor

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3 responses to “A criminal rehab centre which accepts no grant money and where residents pay no fees

  1. Just adding my own experience here. I’ve eaten at the restaurant, and while I wouldn’t agree with the article that it’s “Gourmet,” it is pretty damn good. And the location is great – one of the only neighborhoods in SF to get regular sunshine in the summer, and it has a terrace, with a great view of the bay.

    I’ve also met and talked with some of the residents and staff/consultants. A member of my family worked in the same area (criminal psychology), so I’ve been privy to many discussions about related issues. I agree generally with Eleanor, that the program works because it meets clients’ needs, which they mostly didn’t even know they had. One of the big ones in recovery/rehabilitation, is the need for accountability in a caring setting – these folks (not all guys by any means) are used to being either invisible, or in trouble. It’s often never occured to them that someone could tell them both “that behavior is not ok,” and “you are ok” at the same time.

    Delancey Street has obviously taken a long time to get to where it is now. Mimi started it what 36 years ago? At the time, that neighborhood was very rundown, unsafe, etc. The web boom of the late 1990’s saw the real estate there go way, way up in value, and it’s now a clean, safe, transformed part of town. Maybe Delancey Street helped bring that around?

    Delancey Street is serious. It’s very difficult to get in, in that many more people apply than are accepted. The application process is long and involved. They only want people who are really desparate for change, who they think can make it through the four years. Many graduates remain in the community, helping as they can, being a part of the thing that saved their lives.

    I think there are other programs with similar success stories, if perhaps not so glamorous. The key factor that successful programs all have is that someone (sometimes two people, but often one) simply dedicated their life to making a meaningful contribution. Mimi sacrificed other career opportunities, etc., and didn’t publicize the program for fame or traditional success – she just set out to make a program that works for people. “If you build it, they will come.”

    Another successful program, with many parallels, is Pine Street Inn, in Boston. I used to work there as a trainer, and it was started by a single person who was committed to making a program that works for people. Pine Stree was also started over 30 years ago, and has grown to enjoy the support of the community, including thousands of ‘graduates.’

  2. That’s fascinating David, thank you for your perspective.

    “It’s often never occured to them that someone could tell them both “that behavior is not ok,” and “you are ok” at the same time.”

    Yes, this is a big part of successful therapy I feel – separating the person from the problem.

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