Lark Inn

Lark-Inn for Youth: Emergency housing for homeless and at-risk young adults

There are a myriad of youth services to help homeless children and runaway teens under the age of 18. For those who are able to access these programs, school activities, charitable programs, and even foster care are available to help teens through the difficult years of adolescence. But when youth turn 18, many of these safety-net sources of support dry up. Homeless and at-risk youth over age 18 who are living on the streets, couch surfing or aging out of foster care often need significant help even after they reach the arbitrary milestone that society defines as adulthood.

The Lark-Inn is San Francisco’s first and only full-service homeless shelter specifically for youth where young adults can get off the streets and begin to stabilize their lives. Launched in 2000, the Lark-Inn is part of the City of San Francisco’s homeless shelter network and the only shelter designated for transition age youth ages 18 – 24.

The Lark-Inn’s two-story facility includes 40 beds, a computer lab, kitchen and dining area, laundry facilities, bathrooms, and a kennel for pets. As a youth shelter, the Lark-Inn meets the specific developmental needs of young people transitioning from adolescence to adulthood. As an incentive to Lark-Inn residents who show ongoing progress toward goals identified in their case plan, the program offers the Gateway program, a semi-private living area that comes with a private bathroom with bathtub, a TV lounge and fewer restrictions. Gateway mirrors their next step in life, a more stable housing situation.

The Lark-Inn is an emergency housing solution and an entry point to Larkin Street’s full continuum of programs for homeless and runaway youth, including case management, education, health care, and job training. Lark-Inn Staff members balance compassion and accountability to develop trusting relationships with youth while encouraging them to reach their full potential.

Examples of success abound in the case histories of Lark-Inn residents. A 19-year-old from Kentucky escaped the home where she had been molested and eventually found shelter from homelessness at Lark Inn, where she stayed long enough to complete Certified Nursing Assistant training and find a full-time job. Another 19-year-old left gang life and overcame an abusive past at Lark-Inn, landing a job, building his savings, and finally signing a lease on his first apartment. An 18-year-old runaway living at Lark-Inn used Larkin Street’s employment programs to find a construction job and, with help from case managers, worked out his differences with his family.

Between 350 and 400 youth are housed at the Lark-Inn each year.