What We Do
Downtown Streets Team is ending homelessness through the dignity of work. Our Teams of volunteers work tirelessly throughout the community to ensure the cleanliness and safety of their respective communities. Team Members are building valuable work experience through their volunteerism, while also working on employment and housing goals.
We believe that treating people with dignity and empowering them to be a part of the solution to their struggles is a major factor in their ultimate success. Our approach is unique in that we not only challenge Team Members to take an active role in their own recovery but we also empower them to create long-term solutions for their peers. By having the opportunity to tell their stories at schools, churches, social organizations, and business associations, our Team Members are changing perceptions about homelessness in their communities.
Furthermore, our program has the inherent public benefit of a cleaner community as our Team Members engage in beautifications projects such as street cleaning and creek restoration through our Award-Winning Work-First Model. As one of our Team Members has said, what we’re doing is a “win-win-win” scenario: the Team Member wins, the environment wins and the community wins – it doesn’t get much better than that.
What Causes Homelessness?
The Bay Area is home to some of the wealthiest and most expensive places to live in the world. In the shadow of this great wealth, thousands of people are homeless and many thousands more live below the poverty line on the verge of homelessness.
We know from talking with our Team Members and hearing their stories that there are many reasons people can become homeless: a traumatic event, loss of a job, the inability to pay for needed health-care, or a criminal background got in the way of finding a job.
How Do People Become Homeless?
Top reasons people become homeless:
- 31% job loss
- 20% drugs or alcohol use
- 15% divorce or separation
- 13% an argument with a family member who asked them to leave
- 7% domestic violence
- 10% eviction
- 7% mental health
- 7% physical health or medical condition
- 12% incarceration
- 1% housing restrictions due to probation or parole
What Could Prevent Homelessness?
When asked what would have prevented their homelessness, respondents reported:
- 34% employment assistance
- 31% rental assistance
- 28% drug or alcohol counseling
- 19% mental health services
What We Do To Make A Difference
Our best in class work experience program gives individuals the opportunity to change their lives by volunteering in the community. Once on our Team, individuals can volunteer four hours per day, up to 20 hours per week. We believe that if someone can work for hours, they can eventually work eight hours and become self-sustained. Our Peer-to-Peer model allows Team Members to move up the ladder of success; from being a Team Member to becoming a Shift lead, to managing an entire Team.
DST helps Team Members reach their goals by providing case management, employment services, and daily needs stipends. Coming in the form of gift cards, Stipends allow Team Members to purchase groceries, hygiene essentials, or even a treat for themselves after a long week. Case Managers work to knock down barriers to housing while Employment Specialists build resumes, conduct mock interviews, and work with local employers to build pipelines of employment.
The Palo Alto Streets Team regularly sees over 30 individuals employed per year with over 90% of them remaining employed for longer than 90 days. On top of all of this, the community is cleaner, safer and more inclusive as we help people rebuild their lives.
Who are our Team Members?
All of our Team Members are volunteers who are homeless or at-risk of becoming homeless. The majority of our new Team Members hear about our services through peer-to-peer outreach from our existing Team Members or graduates. We also provide professional outreach with our staff in all of our communities.
Some Of Our Successes
We've secured over 1,500 homes and jobs for people! We are working towards change that results in long-term stability, which is why we only count Team Members who are “permanently” employed and housed. We only count job placements after 90 days and housing when a Team Member’s name is on a lease. We do not consider temporary employment and shelter as permanent solutions, so you will not see these placements in our impact numbers below.
About This Project
The Palo Alto Downtown Streets Team is starting another project to improve upon the work we already do: a power washing Team! Bringing a power washing Team into the community will allow us to expand our reach throughout Palo Alto and will provide Team Members with an important opportunity to gain real life employment skills.
DST has secured a power washer through the generous donation of one of our partners and we are currently locking in the required permits and certifications. We are well on our way to starting our power washing Team this spring, and with your help, we can secure our last needed item: a TRUCK!
A truck will allow our Team to transport the needed water tanks and power washer along with other equipment. A DST truck also helps to establish our presence as a legitimate power washing operation for businesses and property owners. Please help us raise these funds in order to help us get it!