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Larkin Street Youth Services

As part of our commitment to serving diverse and disadvantaged communities, we are profiling some of our grantees serving these communities. Read our letter detailing this work here.

Larkin Street

Young people who walk into Larkin Street Youth Services, like the kids pictured here, are at risk for a range of problems. But three out of four who complete Larkin Street’s program exit street life.

 

Each year, more than 5,700 homeless and runaway youth are living on the streets of San Francisco. And each year, Larkin Street Youth Services, a Hewlett Foundation grantee, reaches out to most of them. The programs of Larkin Street provide homeless youth with a full range of care, from emergency needs like a bed and a warm meal, to permanent housing and health care, as well as assistance with obtaining employment and education.

Approximately 70 percent of the youth that Larkin Street serves are people of color. Homeless youth come from a variety of ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, but virtually all have suffered abuse or neglect. Many have mental health and substance abuse problems. Thirty percent of them identify as lesbian, bisexual, gay, or transgender, and Larkin Street has a designated shelter, Castro Youth Housing Initiative, to address their needs.

At all of Larkin Street’s twenty-five sites, the arts are a way to reach out to homeless and runaway youths and gain their trust.

“When feeling beat up by the world, the last thing you want to do is talk with an adult about something personal,” explains Sherilyn Adams, executive director of Larkin Street. “But you might want to sing, to build, to paint a picture. The arts become a glue that keeps youth coming back. Then we can start to ask: what else can we do for you, what are your other goals?”

Larkin Street 2

The kids that arrive at Larkin Street are at risk for dropping out of school, among other worries. Here a group of Larkin regulars celebrates receiving high school diplomas and GEDs with support from Larkin.

 

A $400,000 grant from the Hewlett Foundation’s Population Program has allowed Larkin Street to work with 3rd Street Youth Center and Clinic in Bayview Hunters Point. At this site, a comprehensive approach provides at-risk neighborhood youth with health care, leadership-building activities, and counseling.

The grant supports 3rd Street’s mission to help young people from Bayview Hunters Point make healthy and safe decisions that improve their physical, emotional, and social health, empowering them to become successful, contributing adults. It provides a holistic, integrated continuum of care to disadvantaged youth in one of the Bay Area’s teen pregnancy hot spots.

With additional support from the Foundation’s Performing Arts Program, arts outreach at Larkin Street has been greatly expanded. Guest artists share their talents and provide lessons, ranging from comedy improv to voice and guitar instruction. An additional staff person has been added, and the young people attend a robust offering of cultural events.