I am totally flabbergasted… As were all the people in our Team visiting the Bay Area in search for ideas and insights to “Invent the Future”. Our group of 17 people visited the Delancey Street Foundation in San Francisco this morning.
Go fast and read… Delancey proves, since 45 years, that there is no limit to Human Possibility, that Hope is always present, that Humanity awaits in every human being to flourish, that people are uplifted if they can uplift other people.
I will never forget Delancey’s theme
“Where Hitting Bottom Begins the Climb to New Heights”
We spent the whole morning visiting the “Delancey Community”, guided by “Community Members”. We had lunch at the restaurant they run there, we bought some books and presents from their adjacent library/café. All run by Community Members in the process of learning to flourish again. You have to see it to believe it.
I need more than a few days to digest this, and to probably mature further what I have seen and felt so deeply inside myself before I can say something more and sensible.
I want though to share with you all, friends from all over the World, what I discovered. To do that, I have simply copied the Welcome Word from Delancey’s founder, opening the website. See link below. Here it comes:
“At our site we hope to show you a little about our model, our successes and our struggles. We’re considered the country’s leading residential self-help organization for substance abusers, ex-convicts, homeless and others who have hit bottom. Our average resident has been a hard-core drug addict for sixteen years, abusing alcohol and multiple drugs and has dropped out of school at the 7th grade and has been institutionalized several times. Many have been gang members; most have been trapped in poverty for several generations. Rather than hire experts to help the people with problems, we decided to run Delancey Street with no staff and no funding. Like a large family, our residents must learn to develop their strengths and help each other. It’s an approach to changing lives that is “against all odds”.
We said we were going to take ex-convicts and ex-addicts and teach them to be teachers, general contractors, and truck drivers. They said it couldn’t be done. We said we were going to take 250 people who had never worked and had no skills and teach them to build a 400,000 square foot complex as our new home on the waterfront. They said it couldn’t be done. We said we were going to partner with colleges and get people who started out functionally illiterate to achieve bachelor of arts degrees. They said it couldn’t be done. We said we were going to run successful restaurants, moving companies, furniture making, and cafés and bookstores without any professional help. They said it couldn’t be done. We said we were going to do all this with no staff, no government funding, and no professionals. They laughed and said it couldn’t be done.
We struggle a lot but we’ve been doing it. For over 40 years we’ve been developing a model of social entrepreneurship, of education, of rehabilitation and change that is exciting and full of hope. If you need help, or want to help, please contact us. Most of all, we hope you can feel as inspired by ordinary people’s abilities to achieve extraordinary accomplishments as we’ve been.”
I believe no more should be said now…
Believing in Human Possibility, acting to provide ways for these possibilities to surface, to express themselves, to flourish and make others flourish, has I believe the tremendous power to solve the intractable problems of our times…problems of our making by the way. Again: Delancey has proven it.
It is the Leroy Merlin Group, which I have not mentioned yet by name on my blogs about California, who is the exceptional company sending 280 of its executives throughout the World to «Invent the Future”. I feel so lucky and indebted to have been invited to join Team 17.
Thank You Team Members of Group 17 for having opened up this possibility for me, of experiencing this day… of meeting these people. Thank You from deep in my heart.
We are a community where people with nowhere 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, Delancey Street has served many thousands of residents, in 5 locations throughout the United States. 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.
The minimum stay at Delancey Street is 2 years while the average resident remains for almost 4 years – drug, alcohol and crime-free. During their time at Delancey Street, residents receive a high school equivalency degree (GED) and are trained in 3 different marketable skills. Beyond academic and vocational training, residents learn important values, and the social and interpersonal skills that allow them to live successfully in the mainstream of society.
Any act of violence, or threat of violence, is cause for immediate removal from Delancey Street. Interestingly, former gang members, who have sworn to kill each other, live and work together peacefully starting in dorm-rooms and moving up into their own apartments. Residents learn to work together promoting non-violence through a principle called “each-one-teach-one” where each new resident is responsible for helping guide the next arrival.
“The Road From Prison to Rehabilitation” (New York Times, 01/11)
“Moving Men Into the Mainstream: Best Practices in Prisoner Reentry Assistance” (Center for Civic Innovation, Civic Bulletin 51, Manhattan Institute 03/08)
Chapters in book, Change or Die, (HarperCollins, Inc., New York, NY, 2007)
Chapter in book, America’s New Vision, (1st Books Library, Bloomington, IN, 2002)
“Delancey Street: Where Drug Addicts, Criminals, and The Homeless Go to Turn Their Lives Around” (A&E Biography, 08/97)
“After 26 years, Delancey Street still offers second chances” (San Jose Mercury News, 06/97)
“Crossing Delancey” (Hope Magazine, 02/97)
“Where Life’s Losers Are Building New Lives” (New York Times, 03/89)
Delancey Street Foundation on Oprah (Quicktime)
Delancey Street Foundation on The Discovery Channel (Quicktime)