Category: Community

East Bay Gives

East Bay Gives is a 24-hour online giving blitz supporting Bay Area nonprofits. We hope you’ll show support for our Hayward Team by donating.

On Thursday, May 4, 2017, East Bay Gives aims to mobilize Bay Area residents to give $5 million to support hundreds of nonprofits, and Downtown Streets Team is one of them.

Just last year, we launched a Team in Hayward, and since then we’ve had terrific success in rebuilding people’s lives. So far, 3 people have secured employment and our Team Members have collected and removed over 6,600 gallons of trash and debris from Hayward’s city streets. Wow!

To continue our work, we need support from the community. It takes everyone’s collaboration to end homelessness, and it begins in your town.

What To Do on May 4

  1. Give on May 4, 2017, in honor of your Hayward Streets Team.  If you want to make an even greater impact, give during the 6-7pm hour and we could win $3,000!
  2. Join us for a Mixer. Get to know your Hayward Streets Team.

    World Famous Turf Club
    Thursday May 4, 2017
    5 – 7 pm
    22519 Main Street
    Hayward, CA 94541

Your Gift Helps People Just Like Caleb

A refugee from Liberia, Caleb knows struggle and loss better than any of us ever should. Yet, he chooses to look forward with optimism and brighten the lives of the people around him. With assistance from Hayward Economic Development Division, we discovered job openings at Mission Foods. Thrilled by this opportunity, Caleb decided to apply — and guess what? He got the job and is now working as a Machine Operator!

As well as bringing pride and new purpose to his life, this new job will also allow Caleb to take care of himself and his ailing mother. He is filled with deep gratitude for all of those who supported him on this journey and wants to give a shout-out to the City of Hayward, Bad Business Model Bikes for providing him with new wheels so he can travel to work more easily. He also wants to thank his fellow Streets Team Members and Staff for their support and encouragement. We are so excited for Caleb’s success, he is a true inspiration to all who know him!

Give today to help end homelessness in Hayward.


Vote to Help us Launch a Team in Mountain View

Downtown Streets Team has been recognized as a FINALIST for Inspire Mountain View, a collective of tech companies and committed community partners who are offering significant dollars to preserve the diversity of the community and strengthen the quality of life in Mountain View.

Beginning today thru April 21st, we are asking for your VOTE to expand our model of ending homelessness to the community of Mountain View, which has seen a 99% increase in unhoused individuals between 2013- 2015.

What $100,000 Will Help Us Accomplish

Through this $100K funding ask, we will launch our eighth Streets Team and offer employment opportunities in the field of culinary arts, serving approximately 13% of the community’s homeless population.

There are 8 total finalists in the $100K category, and the PUBLIC determines the winner!


Make Your Voice Heard

 1. VOTE today! (it only takes a moment)

2. SHARE with family, friends, social networks.

3. VOTE only once in the $100K category

Thank you for helping us rebuild lives through the dignity of work. With your vote today, we’re closer to ending homelessness.

City of Sunnyvale Welcomes the Street Café That’s Ending Homelessness


It’s coffee with a karma catch: order your cappuccino at Downtown Streets Team’s (DST) KARTMA Street Café and know you’re paying it forward, because every cup purchased goes towards ending homelessness. The 100 percent electric coffee cart employs individuals transitioning out of homelessness and equips them with practical work experience and a competitive wage. March 22 marked the launch of its new location on the plaza of the Sunnyvale Public Library.

To commemorate the grand opening, City Manager Deanna J. Santana welcomed the crowd while Vice Mayor Gustav Larsson enthusiastically cut the ribbon. Also in attendance were Sunnyvale council members Larry Klein and Russ Melton, as well as Thea Smith Nilsson from Microsoft, who presented five donated Surface devices for KARTMA point of sale technology. DST Staff and Team Members filled the crowd to celebrate this milestone for the nonprofit.

“A simple suggestion by City employees to offer coffee service at City Hall transformed into helping some of our most vulnerable community members gain valuable job skills,” said Deanna J. Santana, City Manager. “That’s not only great karma, it’s an inspiring example of Sunnyvale’s approach to service – collaborating with our community to find creative solutions that meet multiple needs.”

Bailey DeCarlo, who was formerly homeless and now proudly works as Cart Lead for the KARTMA Sunnyvale location, spoke about how she joined the team because she dreams to one day open her own café. She expressed that working at KARTMA is helping her reach long-term goals.


KARTMA is also on a green mission to up-cycle former street vendor vehicles. Several recently secured donated carts will be retrofitted for future KARTMA locations in other Bay Area cities. DST’s vision for its first social enterprise is to have a unique, localized KARTMA Street Café in each community to extend more job opportunities and amplify its impact.

“DST’s mission to offer hope and a pathway to recover from homelessness is at the center of everything KARTMA does,” said Maegan Lillis, Manager of Strategic Initiatives at DST. “We’re offering the community a way to be a part of this with their daily cup of coffee.”

Thousands of daily Library patrons and nearby city employees will now have a new source of refreshments from a business they can be proud of in their community, and one that’s helping them address the needs of their neighbors who are experiencing homelessness.

The cart originally piloted in the City of San Jose in 2014, and since then seven Team Members have used the platform to gain barista and customer service skills. They encouraged DST to partner with the City of Sunnyvale to bring the cart to another community where Team Members have had success. City employees learned about KARTMA as they were exploring the idea of a coffee service to expand amenities at City Hall. Sunnyvale and DST already work closely together to support housing services in the community, making the partnership a natural fit and a great collaboration.

The cart will serve coffee and other non-caffeinated beverages on the Sunnyvale Public Library plaza, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m.- 3:30 p.m.

All photos are courtesy of The Family Album Project. View the full gallery.


SCC Realtors Foundation Donates $25,000


Earlier this week, the Santa Clara County Realtors Foundation (SCCRF) surprised all of us at Downtown Streets Team (DST) when they presented a $25,000 check at an evening event hosted by Santa Clara County Association of Realtors.



“Myself and Annette Hancock, an extraordinary volunteer and long-time board member, were overwhelmed by the foundation’s generosity, and Annette was brought to tears, ” said Meta Townsley, Chief Development Officer of DST. “We are greatly appreciative of our new partnership with the Santa Clara Association of Realtors.”


By working hand-in-hand with housing organizations and property managers, we have successfully secured permanent housing for over 600 people across the Bay Area.  Building these partnerships is essential to our success in ending homelessness in our lifetime. The SCCRF’s commitment to helping us reach our goal is significant and will bring hope to many people who are ready to get off the streets for good.

SCCRF is dedicated to bringing real estate together by investing in our neighborhoods with compassion, foresight and action.  DST’s check was one of two checks presented that evening.  Family Supportive Housing, a nonprofit dedicated to ending family homelessness, was also presented with a $25,000 check.

View the official press release.


San Jose Mayor Liccardo Helps Remove 162 Bags of Trash

Do you notice the trash and debris alongside San Jose’s freeway on and off-ramps (also known as gateways)? It’s a noticeable issue, and our unhoused Team Members and San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo are working hard to clean it all up, one gateway at a time.  There are 18 gateways leading into downtown San Jose, and we are determined to have a team beautifying each one.

Photo Credit: The Family Album Project

We kicked off 2017 with a hugely successful clean-up alongside one of the gateways, near Vine/Almaden in San Jose. Mayor Liccardo joined us from 9am-12pm and altogether we filled 162 bags of trash! ABC7, KCBS, NBC Bay Area and KSTS joined us for the clean-up. View more photos of the clean-up.

Watch the NBC Bay Area story:


Photo Credit: The Family Album Project


Mayor Liccardo spearheaded the San Jose Gateways project in partnership with Downtown Streets Team to provide an opportunity for corporations to be socially responsible, while also creating a pipeline for our unhoused, job-seeking Team Members to build work skills and feel like part of their community again by picking up trash and debris. Our board members, staff and Team Members had a blast beautifying our city alongside Mayor Liccardo.  He’s one rockin’ mayor!

Photo Credit: The Family Album Project

Become a San Jose Gateway Sponsor and Help End Homelessness

Currently, there are seven gateways sponsored by one of the following corporations: Ernst & Young, Comcast, Kaiser Permanente, Adobe, SunPower, Samsung, SuperMicro, Nexenta, TiVo, Signature Flight, Pinger, Caliva and Boston Properties.  We are seeking sponsors for the remaining 10 gateways.  Each sponsorship provides six unhoused individuals with the tools they need to find employment and housing, while also helping fulfill their basic needs. View the different gateway locations here. 

Have questions about becoming a sponsor? Contact Shannon Robinson, San Jose Project Manager at or (650) 847-0523. Learn about sponsorship opportunities.


Photo Credit: The Family Album Project

LinkedIn Interns Say ‘Hi’ and Raise 10,000 to End Homelessness

In late March 2016, Downtown Streets Team launched its work experience model for unhoused community members in San Francisco, a city that we know and love for its diverse, creative, and charmingly gritty culture. Three months after our launch, we were thrilled to have the attention of the largest employment oriented social networking company in the world, LinkedIn.

Working with LinkedIn’s Interns for Good was a no-brainer for us. In fact, we’re humbled to admit that Downtown Streets Team attempted to make our own employment-oriented social networking site a few years back. Yeah, that failed. Not just because we’re social workers making a poor attempt at engineering, but because access to technology has drastically improved for the unhoused community enough to make LinkedIn a viable resource for folks living on the streets. There couldn’t be a more exciting time to launch our non-profit in one of the most innovative and tech-savvy cities in the world.

San Franciscans know life isn’t golden for everyone in the City. Everyday we’re faced with over 8,000 people experiencing homelessness, and while the problem at large is so visible, the individuals themselves seem to blend together. It takes a conscious effort to remind ourselves the folks we see struggling are people, not just “the homeless,” and that everyone has a different path that led them to the street.

In consultations with our Team Members, we asked them what the most distressing aspect of homelessness is. Their responses were not as you might expect, the lack of adequate shelter, food or a sense of safety. We were told that the most difficult part of homelessness is the lack of acknowledgement from other people. This led to San Francisco Downtown Streets Team’s Just Say Hi campaign.

LinkedIn’s Interns for a Cause took our concept and ran with it. They demonstrated an impassioned and thorough understanding of our goal to end social hesitation around acknowledging homeless community members. People want to help end homelessness, but they don’t know how. Everyone can start by simply saying hi. The interns did exactly they: they saw our Team Members (homeless community members) cleaning the street, and asked who they were.

From that first interaction, the interns designed a program where coworkers could send a simple hello to a fellow employee accompanied with a message and a treat in return for making a donation. More than 300 employees participated, raising $2,755 for us! This program was a proof of concept for us: when asked to be thoughtful and reach out to someone, employees were inclined to take action and make a connection. Once someone received a Just Say Hi message, they were inspired to send one themselves. It was even worth a donation on their part. You can’t put a price on human connection, and this program proved that positivity breeds positivity. This is something we’ve seen in our work as well: when you start treating someone with dignity, they will rise to the occasion. The interns’ Just Say Hi message program proved positive attention yields real results.

With continued organized efforts, the LinkedIn interns in partnership with the LinkedIn for Good team raised over $10,000 for our San Francisco Team. Given the success of the campaign, we hope to replicate it across our organization.

With this funding, we can grow our Team and provide more services to more people. Our San Francisco Team is the fastest growing of the seven branches DST has established across the Bay Area. In the past six months, we have helped 22 individuals find permanent employment, and another 16 find temporary employment. For many of our folks, this was a huge step. Having not worked for years, many Team Members at first don’t have confidence they could return to work. However, after a weekend gig cleaning up after Outside Lands and San Francisco Pride, they realized they do have what it takes to get a job, and began putting out applications and setting-up a LinkedIn profile.

When the LinkedIn Interns saw our Team and reached out to just say hi, we had no idea where it would lead. Here we are, together taking steps towards ending homelessness one person, one human connection and one job at a time.

That homeless woman is someone’s mother

The little girl who drew this is about 10 years old. She approached our table at a community event where she immediately grabbed this question and a colored pencil. There were many questions on the table to choose from. As she began to draw, it became apparent what was weighing on her mind.

She was also accompanied by her younger sister and her grandmother, who is now raising the two of them.

Her grandmother spoke to us about her daughter’s struggles to get her life on track, to stay housed and employed. She was at a loss for answers, for her daughter has made many attempts but is continuously faced with adversity, including a recent divorce. The little girl interjected her comments as her grandmother spoke. We were surprised by her matter-of-fact tone. She was immensely focused on completing her drawing, but also wanted to share the facts with us.

We gave the grandmother info about one of our teams that we hope will fit the needs of her daughter. The girl’s younger sister tugged at her grandmother’s sleeve, demanding she was ready to go home.

“She’s autistic,” said the grandmother. “So there’s a lot going on.”

Even so, they did not leave until the little girl was done with her drawing. We talked with many people at the community fair that day, but none of them shared with us in the way this little girl had. In a split second, she forced us to see how her struggling mother was affecting her and her family. We, in turn, were struck by the reality that hit us. We talk to people every day who are homeless, but not often do we hear it from a child’s perspective.

When we talk about homelessness, we need to talk about all aspects. Homelessness impacts us all and it will take all of us working together to solve it. The next time you see a homeless person on the street, think to yourself, “That could be someone’s mother, or someone’s brother, or uncle.” Then do something, even if it’s simply looking them in the eyes and saying, “Hi.”

VOL. II – Brandon Davis, SF Project Director

By Brandon Davis, Project Director  of San Francisco

In a letter from Birmingham jail, Dr. Martin Luther King declared that…

Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through tireless efforts…and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right.

Every Tuesday at 12:30 pm, in a modest Quaker Meeting Space, there’s a room brimming with the positive energy of homeless community members who have rejected inevitability, united in eagerness for self-transformation. Since Downtown Streets Team launched in San Francisco three months ago, we’ve had no shortage of folks determined to earn a life of stability, starting by volunteering on community beautification projects and working side by side with our direct service staff on their housing and employment goals. In fact, San Francisco is home to our quickest growing Team, built solely through peer-to-peer outreach and a high-spirited presence in the community.

It doesn’t take a Medical Social Worker to discern that my compassion for the unhoused community is deeply rooted in personal experience. As a first generation child of deaf adults (CODA) I experienced the marginalization of a community and felt its effects on my family. Through watching families in the deaf community struggle to find support, my empathy for others in similarly alienating circumstances has grown. My parents’ disability disqualified them for a majority of employment opportunities, dealing them major economical disadvantages. The social disadvantage of deafness often excluded our family from teacher conferences and medical appointments, which potentially negatively affected our health and well being. I’ve seen how being “othered” can turn marginalized communities even more inward and isolated into groups of only those who share their experiences.

Adversity has shaped our way of identifying with the world and those around us. One of the largest controversies within the deaf community is whether or not parents should procure operations to restore a deaf child’s hearing. The dispute stems from a deeply rooted pride that members of the deaf community hold in being subversive, and surviving the world without assimilating and developing strong culture in the face of marginalization. The same controversy transpires around adults who opt for progressive surgery after a lifetime of living in deaf subculture.

That might come as a surprise to most people. But while both hearing and housing might appear as objective, undeniable advantages to most, assimilating after a lifetime without them has to be some real earth-shattering shit.

Provided the offer to hear, for instance, my father would be offended. On the other hand, my mother who was born hard of hearing was recently giggling to me about testing a newly-released hearing device in a public restroom, asking me “is that what it’s always sounded like in there?”

I don’t blame my father. He carved out a life with what he had and learned to cope with the support of his community. Perhaps their difference in approach to assimilation can be traced back to the way their parents handled their deafness: my mother was taken to Northwestern University multiple times a week to participate in studies that trained her to interpret speech in the hearing world, completely opposite my father, who was shipped to a boarding school for the deaf at age five, where he spent most of his life until he was an adult.

Deaf adults qualify for disability benefits that pay a fixed income. My dad would never vilify someone who used those benefits in a time of need, but he made the decision to work and gained a strong sense of self-worth rooted in the contribution he was making. Shortly after I was born a deaf friend of my father referred him to the United States Postal Service who took a chance on him, paying five dollars per hour. He’s been there ever since, working an additional job in the stock room at Sears and taking less than a handful of sick days in his 40+ years. He retires this year!

I recently attended a meeting where I heard someone label an overwhelming percentage of unhoused community members “service-resistant” and I wanted to jump out the high-rise office window. Instead I ruminated on the reality that is our consistently packed room of unhoused community members, and imagined them with their middle fingers high in the air at the phrase “service-resistant.” I envision a similar response from members of the underemployed and undervalued deaf community. They are great at hand signs.

It felt like an unaccountable cop-out. It’s true there are individuals who take longer to engage but it’s rarely because they are lazy or disinterested in a secure, dignified life sheltered from the elements with access to a toilet and a belly full of food! It’s more probable that we’ve failed to mold our services to the needs of those members of the community that have been consistently failed by institutions.

Anyone who has given their best attempt to communicate with my mother can tell you that she’s sweeter than a Midwest lemon bar. But to this day, she doesn’t invest time engaging with people who won’t make the effort of meeting her and try to communicate with her at least partially on her terms. My parents don’t respond well to not being included in conversations that take place in the same room as them. They often worry conversations are being had about them, without them. It might sound paranoid, but I’d imagine it can be justified by their previous life experiences. Same rules apply to our Team Members: they show up for shift everyday, and tell us where they want to go from there. We don’t make decisions about them, without them.

That’s why I fell in love with Downtown Streets Team’s individualized, peer-run approach. A Team Member recently put it better than I ever have: …it’s like we are all in the same boat, and society for the most part may have counted us out, but you guys [Downtown Streets Team] haven’t counted us out, we didn’t count ourselves out, we’re still alive and kicking!”

Every morning the majority of our Team Members awake exhausted from a lack of shelter and security, ready themselves to the best of their ability, and join their peers in beautifying their community. If that isn’t work ethic, I don’t know what is.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to humans. We are each multifaceted and evolving. DST will be the first to admit we don’t have all the answers, but our Team Members are helping us find them. San Francisco is in a state of crisis, with over 6,500 human beings unhoused. The time is ripe and together as a Team accountable to one other, we’re inching further in the right direction everyday.

First mobile shower and laundry service for homeless launches in santa clara county


Cynthia Corpuz, Project WeHope                                                                                                             PH: (650) 779-4631| Email:

Julia Lang, Downtown Streets Team
PH: (650) 690-5551 | Email:



SUNNYVALE, CALIF. — The first mobile hygiene shower trailer offering free showers and laundry service for homeless people living in Santa Clara County (SCC), called Dignity on Wheels (DOW), officially launches in Sunnyvale through the collaborative efforts of of Project WeHope, the organization responsible for its creation, Downtown Streets Team (DST) and Trinity Church of Sunnyvale on February 2, 2016 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at 477 Mathilda Avenue.

The official DOW ribbon-cutting event will feature keynote speaker County Supervisor Joe Simitian and a host of service providers, including Our Daily Bread, food from Whole Foods of Palo Alto, Lifeline Phones through Touch Wireless, Valley Medical Mobile Clinic, Sunnyvale Community Services, and Peninsula Healthcare Connection.

“Collaborating with organizations, such as Downtown Streets Team, is key to the success of Dignity On Wheels at Trinity Church,” said Pastor Paul Bains, President of Project WeHOPE. “We are all working towards a common goal. It only makes sense that we partner and pool our resources to help the homeless and underserved.”

According to the 2015 Point-In-Time Homeless Census there are 4,627 homeless people in SCC not living in shelters, which means they do not have regular access to showers, a key component to successfully finding employment and housing. Currently, there are only three locations throughout the entire county that provide showers on specific days.

“Something as simple as a hot shower and clean clothes can help restore hope and dignity,” said Greg Pensinger, project manager Sunnyvale Team.  “There is such a great need in our county for shower and laundry services for the homeless, we could not be more thrilled about the arrival of Dignity on Wheels.”

DOW will help alleviate the need for more services by providing up to 30 showers and 14 single loads of laundry during each four-hour session, every Tuesday from 8 a.m. – 12 p.m. at Trinity Church of Sunnyvale located at 477 Mathilda Avenue. Plans to expand these services to other sites throughout SCC are in progress, including Palo Alto and San Jose.

Watch the video about Dignity on Wheels: 

RSVP to the launch:


ABOUT PROJECT WEHOPE: Project WeHOPE is a 501c3 nonprofit agency based out of East Palo Alto, with a focus on helping the homeless adults and underserved families. In addition to Dignity On Wheels mobile shower and laundry trailer, Project WeHOPE also operates a year-round emergency and transitional homeless shelter. For more information, visit


About Downtown Streets Team: In 2005 the Palo Alto Business Improvement District conducted a survey of local business owners to determine the biggest issues facing downtown businesses. The group identified cleanliness and homelessness as the most pressing challenges. Downtown Streets Team (DST) emerged as result of the collaboration of local businesses, law enforcement, the Palo Alto Downtown Business and Professional Association and community leaders striving to make Palo Alto a better place to live and work. The model is simple: provide homeless and low-income men and women with the resources they need to rebuild their lives.  First, they join one of our teams and begin working collaboratively on beautification projects.  Meanwhile Team Members work together with our case management and employment services to find housing and a job. In 2011, DST expanded to serve the Coyote Creek corridor in San Jose and in 2012, launched a new project in collaboration with the City of Sunnyvale and Sunnyvale Community Services. In 2013, DST expanded to San Rafael. With franchisees elsewhere in California and Florida, and inquires from all over the country, DST is positioned to become a national solution to help end homelessness and restore dignity for those most in need. To learn more about the Downtown Streets Team or to make a donation, please visit



Stories of Hope from Marin

Everyday, and particularly this holiday season, Downtown Streets Team is proud of our Team Member’s successes. These stories give us hope as we work towards our mission to end homelessness in Marin. In Marin Downtown Streets Team currently has 56 graduates who have moved onto long-term employment opportunities including Isaac, Kevin and Sondra.

Sondra, recent DST graduate.

Sondra, recent DST graduate.

Sondra was homeless and struggling to maintain her two months of sobriety when she decided to join DST. Sondra reflects on her decision to join DST, “That started to change everything… I got to rebuild my life.” Once Sondra made the decision to change her life she immediately began to thrive on the Team. After four months of hard work and collaboration with our Employment Specialist in San Rafael we are proud to report that Sondra is now sober, working full-time at Goodwill, and no longer homeless. Although each Team Member’s success is unique Sondra’s achievements with Downtown Streets Team are not unlike Kevin or Isaac’s.

Isaac became homeless when he lost his job and couldn’t pay his rent. Another Team Member encouraged Isaac to join Downtown Streets Team and Isaac became a leader on the Team and flourished. Recently, as a direct result of DST’s program, he accepted a full-time position at PG&E in Marin! When asked how he felt about his new job Isaac said, “I am so happy, I hope it turns into a career.” Along with Isaac, our Team Member Kevin also found a job at PG&E. Although Kevin is now working full-time he explains, “DST has given me a sense of what it is to give back to the world,” and he wants to continue volunteer work to improve the community.

Together, Sondra, Isaac, and Kevin represent three of the many successes Downtown Streets Team has had in Marin that continue to give us hope in our mission to end homelessness. Sondra reminds us, “All homeless people want is an opportunity to prove themselves. DST gives them that opportunity to show up and work.”

Kevin, another successful DST graduate

Kevin, another successful DST graduate

Isaac works full time at PG&E in Marin!

Isaac works full time at PG&E in Marin!