According to the Larkin Street web site, “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.” The website proudly claims to have 75% of its former clients successfully stay away from the streets.
Clients aged 18 through 24 begin their transition off the streets at the Lark-Inn, located on 869 Ellis. Once clients have a permanent bed, they are allowed to stay at the shelter for 120 days.
Within the first week, clients are directed to free health, employment, and education services.
After 21 days at the Lark-Inn, a client is assigned a case manager responsible for guiding the client toward whatever goal he or she chooses. The client and case manager set up financial plans, education goals, and employment options.
Lara, an LSYS case manager, has her MS in family therapy and over seven years’ experience working in the social field. She believes that it’s important to create a plan specifically designed by and for the clients. “The most important thing is to ensure our clients have shelter, food, and access to medical services, albeit physical or mental, then create a plan so that they can become financially independent social contributors.”
LSYS offers a day labor program, a one-month program that gives previously unemployed individuals a chance to gain work experience, and a way to save money. Clients also have options to finish their GED, go to college, get a job readiness class certificate, or find internships in a variety of fields.
After clients leave the shelter, they have the option of utilizing LSYS transitional housing programs until they are completely independent. “The supportive staff really helps us find our own way,” a Lark-Inn client proclaims. “They ask us how we are doing, and do we need anything specific. I stated that I was a vegetarian, and so the chef here made sure to have salads and meatless lasagnas—stuff like that.” Lara adds, “Here at the Lark-Inn, clients really do come first.”
The tragedy of the situation is that LSYS is the only system of its kind. Once people turn 25, they are thrown into the apathetic, chaotic shelter system where clients face more traumas than they were experiencing camping out at Golden Gate Park. The Lark-Inn shelter works because it is part of a program. The staff at the shelter have weekly meetings regarding the clients’ success with Day Labor and Hire Up staff.
Unfortunately, LSYS caters only to people aged 24 and younger, but at least the clients have a brighter future ahead.