Delancey Street Foundation
Mimi Silbert is the Co-Founder, President, and CEO of the Delancey Street Foundation, the world famous residential educational community for ex-felons, prostitutes, and alcoholics and addicts. Dr. Silbert is a Boston-bred criminologist and psychologist with two PhDs from UC Berkeley. She has been awarded 10 honorary doctorate degrees and taught at Berkeley and San Francisco. She also wrote, designed, and implemented a revamp of San Francisco’s juvenile justice system.
Based in San Francisco, Delancey Street, has seven live-work complexes across country that provides its members with peer taught academic, vocational, and social skills. It reintegrates its residents into mainstream society by operating various businesses, such as restaurants, catering, and moving companies, that are wholly managed and run by the residents themselves. The foundation’s methods have been widely praised and have been emulated internationally. Mimi was the developer of Delancey Street’s headquarters, which houses 500 residents as well as of retail, educational, and recreational facilities. From its inception, Delancey Street has been self-sustaining, and does not accept government funding.
Dr. Silbert is the architect behind Delancey Street’s “mutual restitution” model. which is educational rather than therapeutic. The foundation functions as an extended family rather than a program. The central “each-one-teach-one” principle has residents teaching other residents. Its traditional family values stress a strong work ethic, responsibility, social and personal accountability, decency, integrity, and mutual restitution. Economic self-sufficiency and social entrepreneurialism are its cornerstones. Delancey Street has no paid staff. It is completely self-governed with councils of residents dealing with one another on issues such as housing, rule violations, and education. It functions not as a “program” but as an extended family and as a community in which everyone is an important giver as well as receiver in the process of changing their lives. The average Delancey Street resident has had 12 years of drug addiction, has been in prison four times, is functionally illiterate, unskilled and has never worked for more than six months. The minimum stay at Delancey Street is two years, while the average resident remains for almost four years. As of 2020, the foundation has over 23,000 graduates.
Mimi has been recognized and honored by an amazing list of global, federal, state, municipal organizations and leaders including, the Pope John XXIII Award, the Valor Award from the Jewish National Fund and induction into the California Hall of Fame. In high school, Mimi was voted “nicest girl” in her high school class, an honor she found so humiliating that right afterwards, she taught herself how to swear. After college, Mimi studied under the famous existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre in Paris. From him she learned “there is no given meaning to life, that you have to make that meaning. ” Thus, based on her outstanding life of meaningful work and good behavior, she has more than earned her place in the Mensh Hall of Fame.
“Therapy doesn’t change behavior all that much. You change your behavior by changing your behavior.”
Delancey Street Foundation