The Delancey Street Foundation: Unique Advocacy

By: Roshni Varma

Representatives from the Mitty Advocacy Project recently visited the Delancey Street Foundation in San Francisco in order to learn about different aspects of criminal rehabilitation. The foundation was established in 1971 and has been expanding both its size and success ever since. Delancey Street specializes in teaching trades and job skills to ex-convicts in an effort to reduce recidivism rates. The belief is that these ex-convicts will change their ways as they live with their peers and participate in a structured day of work. Participants at Delancey Street are involved in running a restaurant, a moving company, a sewing company, as well as learning about different subjects, such as art history. Not only do these businesses provide essential skills to participants, but they also generate the revenue that allow a private, non-governmental agency like Delancey Street to stay open, thus allowing participants to directly see the fruits of their labor. Through these activities, ex-convicts living at Delancey Street are reformed in ways that allow them to contribute to society after their time at the foundation is over. As sophomore MAP member Arushi Lahiri puts it, “Delancey Street allows individuals to transcend their pasts and turn their lives around by participating in a supportive environment built to benefit–not punish–them.”

Furthermore, besides providing an amazing and unique approach to rehabilitation, Delancey Street is also teaches the story of an advocate who overcome innumerable obstacles. For the founder of the organization, Mimi Silbert, Delancey Street was once just a dream, and it was nearly impossible to secure the land and funding necessary to start such an organization. However, Mimi knew that the benefits of such a project would be worth the initial hardships of getting such a foundation off the ground. Thus, Mimi fought hard to obtain the funding and land that would allows the first Delancey Street complex to be built on Embarcadero Street in San Francisco. From there, the organization has expanded, and now has many more locations across the country and the world. Such an story inspires young advocates, such as those on the MAP team, by making us realize that justice, especially innovation justice, is not always easy to implement. It can take months, years, even decades to build successful and helpful organizations, but by staying loyal and faithful to the methods of advocacy, it is possible.

Ultimately, not only is Delancey Street a beautiful example of justice in the world of criminal rehabilitation, but it also conveys the obstacles that advocates for justice must overcome as they embark on journeys to solve incredibly complex problems. Thus, Delacey Street is the epitome of successful advocacy, as it not only changes the world for the greater good itself, but it also inspires others to do the same. The MAP teams hopes to use this visit to motivate our advocacy in the future, as we stay determined and focused on making changes within our local community, as well as around the world. Our visit to Delancey Street will allow us to share new ideas about criminal rehabilitation with our legislators, but it will also encourage us to dream big and generate innovative ideas concerning rehabilitation, so that the lives of ex-convicts and citizens of our communities will continue to improve.