Frequently Asked Questions About Larkin Street

Larkin Street Youth Services’ Mission and History

What is Larkin Street’s Youth Service’s mission?
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.

When was Larkin Street founded?
Larkin Street was founded in 1984 by a group of local business owners, church members, and neighbors who were concerned by the rising number of young people engaging in risky behavior on the streets of San Francisco.

What are Larkin Street’s funding sources?
Larkin Street maintains a diverse funding base to support the agency’s annual operating budget of over $13mm. Approximately 64% of Larkin Street’s funding comes from public sources, including local, state, and federal agencies, and 36% comes from private sources. In 2009, the mix of private funding included 42% from individual donors, 36% from private and corporate foundations, and the balance coming from civic and religious institutions and special events.

Community Need: Dangers for Homeless Youth

What are the most pressing issues that homeless and runaway kids face these days? The basic issues that at-risk kids faced twenty years ago remain present today: histories of abuse and neglect, vulnerability to substance abuse, and mental health issues. The most notable difference today is that far more kids have never experienced “home” or “family” in the traditional sense. Shuttled between foster care placements and group homes, or on their own from an alarmingly young age, these kids have had few positive, consistent adult role models. The chaos they have experienced throughout their childhoods leaves them with little understanding of safety and stability.

Larkin Street must work that much harder to build caring, trusting relationships with our most-vulnerable young people so they can begin to build their confidence and self-esteem along with the skills they need to be independent. Each youth at Larkin Street has a unique set of needs; the type of need varies dramatically across the population Larkin Street serves. Some youth require only short-term housing and support while they work to resolve family issues before returning home. Others require much more intensive and long-term support as they overcome mental health and substance abuse issues, past trauma, and severe educational and life skill deficits along the path toward independence. In order to ensure each of our client’s permanent transition from street life, there must be an increase in supportive housing options.  There are too few transitional and permanent housing programs in San Francisco that are age-appropriate for our kids, who require a safe, stable place to live as they address the other barriers to their independence.

Youth Served by Larkin Street

Who does Larkin Street serve?
Larkin Street serves youth, ages 12 to 24, who are homeless, runaway, or at risk of becoming homeless. And while the age range of our youth served varies from 12 to 24, the vast majority (85%) between the ages of 18 and 24. Homeless, runaway, and at-risk youth represent diverse racial, ethnic, and economic backgrounds. Among youth served by Larkin Street annually, approximately 70% are youth of color. By gender, 60% are male, 35% are female, and 2% are transgender. By sexual orientation, roughly 30% identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual.

Despite their diversity, these young people share common histories of abuse and neglect: more than 75% of Larkin Street’s clients have been physically, emotionally, or sexually abused, and the vast majority cannot return home because their parents are unwilling or unable to care for them. Moreover, two-thirds have histories of suicidal thoughts or attempts. Over 50% of our youth report they are “throwaways,” kids whose parents have forced them to leave home, or who knew they were leaving but did not care. The needs of these young people are broad, ranging from crisis intervention and medical care, to safe, stable housing, to education and employment support. The most basic need these youth share is for a caring, nurturing, and safe environment where they can build trusting relationships along with the skills and confidence to achieve their potential.

How many young people do you serve each year?
Larkin Street serves more than 2,500 homeless and at-risk youth annually. Of these youth, approximately 700 access our residential programs (emergency, transitional or permanent housing); 2,000 access drop-in services at the Drop-In Center or Haight Street Referral Center; and 700 enroll in education or employment training programs at Hire Up.

Do clients pay for services?
No. Youth are not expected to pay for any of the services they receive from Larkin Street. To build financial literacy skills and encourage money management, some of our residential programs include mandatory savings plans, but each young person’s contributions are returned to them in full when they complete the program.

Why do you serve young people over 18?
Few young people are truly prepared for independence when they turn 18; most require the ongoing emotional and financial support of their families until they connect with the labor force in their 20s. For homeless and at risk youth who share traumatic histories of abuse and neglect, for whom the risks of street life are less dangerous than those they faced at home, and for those whose parents are unable or unwilling to care for them, Larkin Street provides support through that transition.

Do you keep in touch with former clients?
Yes! Whenever possible, Larkin Street provides ongoing follow-up with our youth for at least one year after they leave services—often, we stay in touch for much longer. Former participants are invited back for community meals and holiday celebrations, and can be active in various support groups to help motivate current Larkin Street youth toward success.

Homeless and At Risk Youth Services and Access

What does it take to help a kid get off the street for good?
Larkin Street first focuses on meeting each young person’s most basic needs: safe shelter, nutritious food, and medical care. Next, our highly trained youth services staff work with each youth to develop trusting relationships that create a critical foundation for self-esteem, confidence, and longer-term success. Counselors and case managers help each individual to identify their specific goals and create an individualized plan for achieving them, while also addressing underlying mental health or substance abuse issues that may create barriers to achievement. Over time, Larkin Street youth develop the life skills and focus to work toward educational and employment goals. With the caring, consistent support of Larkin Street’s staff and volunteers and access to youth-focused housing programs that will best meet their needs, our youth find a permanent pathway off the streets of San Francisco.

What type of youth service programs are offered by Larkin Street?
Larkin Street offers a broad continuum of services especially designed to meet the needs of homeless, marginally-housed, and at-risk youth ages 12 to 24, helping them to get off of the street and then make a permanent transition from street life to independence. Larkin Street’s 25 youth programs include street outreach, emergency shelter, transitional living and permanent housing, case management, medical care, specialty care and housing for HIV positive youth, mental health and substance abuse services, and education and employment programs. Read more about Larkin Street’s youth programs.

What makes Larkin Street Youth Services programs for homeless and at risk youth so unique?
Larkin Street is the only youth services organization in San Francisco that provides the full spectrum of support homeless and runaway youth need to achieve their full potential. Our continuum of care offers youth a range of housing options—from emergency to permanent—and wraparound youth program support including case management, counseling, medical care, education, and employment programs to meet the varied, complex, and evolving needs of youth who are without a safe place to call home. Over the years, the success of Larkin Street’s comprehensive youth services model has been recognized nationally with Larkin Street staff regularly presenting at conferences and conducting training for other youth services organizations.

How do you see Larkin Street’s programs growing in the future?

For nearly 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 of the Five Year Strategic Plan, 2012-2017

Where is Larkin Street located?
Larkin Street’s 25 programs operate out of multiple locations throughout San Francisco. Our administrative offices are located at 134 Golden Gate Ave., San Francisco, CA 94102. View addresses for our key youth services programs.

How can at-risk or homeless youth access your services?
Youth can access Larkin Street’s services 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Points of entry include our 24/7 hotline, our emergency shelter and drop-in programs; the Larkin Street Medical Clinic; and the Hire Up Education and Employment Center. Staff members at each of these sites are trained to link youth on the street with additional services in the Larkin Street program continuum as necessary. View locations and hours for Larkin Street youth programs.

What should I do if I see someone on the street who could use Larkin Street’s help?
Tell them about Larkin Street! They should call our toll-free number (1-800-669-6196) to be linked with a hot meal and a warm bed that night.

How to Help Larkin Street’s Youth





How can I help?

Larkin Street offers numerous ways for you to support our work on behalf of homeless and at risk youth:

Most importantly, we hope you will tell any at-risk young person in your life know that we can provide the help they need to get off the streets for good.

Can I volunteer at Larkin Street?
Yes! Larkin Street has individual and group volunteer opportunities. Learn more about volunteering by reading about Larkin Street’s Volunteer Program.