Mission, Strategy, and History


The mission of Larkin Street Youth Services is to create a continuum of services that inspires youth to move beyond the street. We will nurture potential, promote dignity, and support bold steps by all.

New Strategic Plan 2012-2017

A Legacy of Success. For 30 years, Larkin Street Youth Services has built a robust continuum of care to help homeless youth get off the streets. We are a pioneer in our field and our achievements are significant:  there is no other agency in San Francisco—and few nationwide—to offer a similar breadth of services with comparable results. Innovation has always been a hallmark of our work, and this intensive strategic planning process has revealed that we are now poised to build on our success, deepen our impact, and set a new standard in the field.

Read more in the Executive Summary, Five-Year Strategic Plan, 2012 – 2017

History of Larkin Street Youth Services

In the early 1980s, residents, businesspeople, and social service providers in San Francisco’s Polk Gulch began to notice that there were many youth living on the streets in their neighborhood. For various reasons,  these young people had nowhere to live. They also had no way to survive without resorting to theft, prostitution, or the drug trade. So in 1984, members of the community decided to take action: they opened a Drop-In Center on Larkin Street to help homeless youth find a supportive and safe place, off the streets of San Francisco.

Over time, as the issues affecting homeless youth changed, Larkin Street evolved to address them. In 1988, Larkin Street added a peer-based substance abuse treatment program that allowed youth the opportunity to help other youth recover from drug use. Five years later, the organization opened the 16-bed Diamond Youth Shelter to provide safe temporary housing for young people who were resorting to sleeping on the streets. Shortly afterward, Larkin Street expanded our outreach services with our Haight Street Referral Center, and opened our Avenues to Independence transitional living program. In 1997, Larkin Street opened the nation’s first comprehensive housing program for HIV+ youth, named Assisted Care. More organizational growth followed in concert with our Strategic Plan, which guided our addition of other housing programs and employment services.

Today, what was once the original Larkin Street Drop-In Center has grown into the robust continuum of programs and services delivered across San Francisco to over 3,000 young people annually. We give youth 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.

Larkin Street Youth Services continues to set the standard for the delivery of successful programs for homeless and at risk youth not only in San Francisco, but also nationwide. Larkin Street has received numerous awards over the years, with organizations from around the world looking to us as a model of innovation and effective provision of programs that change the lives of thousands of homeless and runaway youth every year.

View excerpts from “Larkin Street Youth Services: The First 25 Years”