Support all your favorite nonprofits with a single donation.Donate safely, anonymously & monthly, in any amount. It's a smarter way to give online. Learn more
In the early 1980s, residents, businesspeople, and social service providers in San Francisco’s Polk Gulch began to realize that there were many young people who were living on the streets of their neighborhood. These were just kids, but they had nowhere to live and no way to survive without resorting to theft, prostitution, or the drug trade. For whatever reason, these kids’ families could not care for them. So in 1984, members of the community stepped in and opened the Larkin Street Drop-In Center to bring these homeless youth back into the fold.
Today, over 25 years later, the Larkin Street Drop-In Center has grown into Larkin Street Youth Services (LSYS). As the issues affecting homeless youth have changed, LSYS has evolved to address them. In 1988 we added a peer-based substance abuse treatment program where kids could help other kids recover from drug use. Five years after that we opened our 16-bed Diamond Youth Shelter to provide safe temporary housing for kids who before slept on the streets. Shortly afterward we expanded our services to the Haight Ashbury neighborhood with our Haight Street Referral Center, and opened our Avenues to Independence transitional living program. In 1997, LSYS opened the nation’s first comprehensive housing program for HIV+ youth, named Assisted Care. More organizational growth followed with forward-thinking strategic planning processes which guided our addition of other housing programs and employment services.
When it comes to caring for youth on the streets, Larkin Street Youth Services sets the standard, not only in San Francisco but nationwide. We have received numerous awards over the years, and organizations from around the country look to us as a model of innovative and effective service provision for homeless and runaway young people. We give them more than just temporary respite from life on the streets. We give them the tools they need—through housing, medical care, education, and job training—to permanently reclaim their lives.