WRITTEN BY Bek Mitchell-Kidd
Since 1984, Larkin Street Youth Services has been committed to helping San Francisco’s most vulnerable youth ages 12–24 move beyond street life. The mission of Larkin Street Youth Services is to create a continuum of services that inspires youth to move beyond the street and nurture their potential, promote dignity, and support bold steps by all.
Larkin Street’s programs address the immediate needs youth have for housing, food and safety, while also encouraging their participation in essential support services that offer the skills and resources needed to help them reach their full potential and keep them off the streets.
The organization’s success rate in helping kids stay off the street permanently speaks to Larkin’s unique model, which is based on the fact that given safety, shelter, compassion, guidance and enough positive options, kids can find their own solutions. They believe all youth deserve the chance to reach their full potential.
Chief Development Officer Elinor Tappé, who recently started working at Larkin, says she took on the role “because of the crisis of youth living on the streets of our city. San Francisco is one of the wealthiest cities in the US and has the highest population of homeless young people. Larkin Street provides a solution—three out of four young people who go through our comprehensive program leave the streets for good. That’s a pretty amazing outcome, and private funding is part of the investment that makes it possible. I believe in the benevolence of the northern California community—they can make all the difference for these kids.”
Each program or service is expressly designed to meet the unique needs of homeless and runaway youth and includes:
- Engagement services including Street Outreach and Community Center (Haight Street Referral Center).
- Provision of housing including emergency housing divided by age and specific needs (including assisted care, HIV+ youth aftercare, LGBTQ youth, former foster care and mental health).
- Support services in the behavioral health medical clinic, HIV specialty clinic, HIV prevention education services, education and employment services and a community art program.
Elinor says, “Developed and refined over the last 30 years, Larkin Street’s model is internationally recognized for its success in transforming the lives of young people experiencing homelessness.”
Larkin Street Youth Services is also at the forefront in terms of data collection. They constantly reflect on and analyze how their programs are doing, assess where they are making the greatest impact, pinpoint improvements needed and identify ways to continue to evolve.
In addition, the program data is used to inform policymakers and help other cities handle youth homelessness. Elinor recommends looking into A Way Home America (AWHA) to find out more about youth homelessness in your city. She says, “AWHA is a national initiative to build the movement to prevent and end homelessness among young people. Visit their website to find out who is active in your community in this movement!”
YOUTH ON THE STREETS
- 1.8 to 2.1 million youth are homeless in the US.
- 1,900 youth ages 12–24 do not have a safe place to sleep on any given night in San Francisco.
- Many of Larkin Street’s clients have been physically, sexually or emotionally abused.
- Nearly half cannot return home. Many suffer from poor health, mental health issues and substance use issues.