The dynamic force behind Delancey Street is its President & CEO, Dr. Mimi Halper Silbert. Although she does not share the same background as her fellow residents, she lives at Delancey Street and abides by its rules. Her tenacious spirit and unlimited energy have built an organization unique in its entrepreneurial and self-governing structure. Her dedication in enacting her vision of an educational community of change has inspired residents to break their destructive cycles and take responsibility for themselves and others. Dr. Silbert has garnered national and international attention for her achievement at Delancey Street, demonstrating her belief that the people who are the problem can, themselves, become the solution.
Mimi Silbert serves as the President and CEO of the Delancey Street Foundation, which Dr. Karl Menninger called “The best and most successful rehabilitation program I have studied in the world”. Delancey Street serves ex-felons, prostitutes, substance abusers, and others who have hit bottom, in six national centers, located in New York, Massachusetts, New Mexico, North Carolina, Los Angeles and headquartered in San Francisco, all living drug, crime, and alcohol free. For 40 years, Delancey Street, a residential educational community, has provided residents with academic, vocational, and social skills, and the discipline, values, and attitudes they need to live in society legitimately and successfully -- at no cost to the client or taxpayer. There are currently over 18,000 thousand successful graduates. Silbert lives in Delancey Street, and the organization functions as an extended family, sharing everything. There is no staff and all functions are performed solely by the residents. Every resident helps the other on an "Each One Teach One" concept. If someone reads at the sixth grade level he tutors someone who reads at the fourth grade level while another resident who reads at the eight grade level tutors him. Although the residents are often violent long term gang members who have been in and out of prison most of their lives, hard core dope fiends where the average resident has dropped out of school in the sixth grade, is functionally illiterate, and has never worked even at an unskilled job for even three months, Silbert believes that the people who are the problem can become their own solution. Delancey Street's approach is to develop their strengths rather than to focus of their problems. With no staff and no government funding, these residents have not only turned their own lives around, but have built the entire organization from four people in 1971 to the many thousands who have now gone through it and have helped the communities in which they live as well.
As a result of her pioneering work, Silbert and Delancey have received numerous awards. From the academic world she has been awarded eleven (11) Honorary Doctorate Degrees including Brandeis, UMass, Golden Gate University, San Francisco State University, and Ben Gurion University in Israel. She was awarded UC Berkeley's prestigious Alumni of the Year (1991) along with being named one of 100 Berkeley Fellows, an Honorific Society. She has also received the President's Medallions from both University of San Francisco (1995) and UC San Francisco (2001).
From national organizations she's won awards ranging from America's Award, National Caring Award, The Mahatma Gandhi Humanitarian Award, the Living Legacy Award from the Women’s International Fund, National Common Cause's Public Service Achievement Award, League of Women Voters, Women Who Could Be President Award, The Gleitsman Foundation Citizen Activist Award at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, among many others. Silbert and Delancey Street's work have been called the "pioneers of social entrepreneurialship" and in this regard she has been named to the San Francisco Business Hall of Fame, received the International Association of Business Communicators Leadership Award, as well as numerous other social entrepreneur awards, and featured in many books and articles on the subject ranging from such books and articles as Business of the Heart to the Financial Times, Fast Magazine, and Worth Magazine.
Silbert has been appointed to the National Institute of Justice by President Carter, to the California Board of Corrections (now the Corrections Standards Authority) by every Governor from Governor Deukmejian (1986) through Governor Schwarzenegger (her current appointment continues through 2012) to the State Advisory Group on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency by Governors Davis and Schwarzenegger, to the Blue Ribbon Commission on Inmate Population Management by the State Legislature, to the Expert Panel on Corrections, and to the State Police Officers Standards and Training Advisory Commission, among other correction oriented appointments. She and Delancey Street have received commendations, certificates, and awards from Presidents Bush (H.W.), Carter, and Reagan, numerous Senate and Congressional Leaders, the New Mexico, California, and Delaware State Legislatures and New Mexico and California Governors, the Key to the City of San Francisco, six Mayoral Proclamations of “Mimi Silbert Days” in San Francisco, and commendations from local boards of supervisors and she was awarded the first Minerva Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004. Silbert was inducted into the California Hall of Fame in 2014. She has been featured on 20/20 in a segment entitled “The Power of Mimi”; on This Is Your Life; Oprah Winfrey Prime Time Special; Sunday Morning with Charles Kurault; John Stossel Goes to Washington; Street Stories with Ed Bradley; Good Morning America; several segments on ABC World News Tonight with Peter Jennings, including their “Year in Review” and featuring Silbert as “Person of the Week”; along with over 50 segments on local channels, national and international media including Asia, Europe, Central and South America, and Africa.
Her work has been written up as chapters in over 35 books and in media ranging from the London Times, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, through Biography Magazine, Reader’s Digest, Parade Magazine, and People Magazine, as well many other national, local and international newspapers, and magazines. She has been honored by police, professional, and community groups as well and is listed in 15 Who's Who..
From religious organizations, she and Delancey Street have received the Pope John XXIII Award from the Catholic Federation, the Muslim Award, The Tree of Life Award from the Jewish National Fund among other local and national religious commendations.
Delancey Street’s home on the San Francisco waterfront, the Embarcadero Triangle, is the culmination of the Delancey creed of self-help. Silbert was the developer and Delancey its own contractor as they built this 360,000 square foot mixed-use development for their home. With union support, they trained over 300 formerly unemployable people in the building trades, and built a complex that holds up to 500 residents, and a vast array of retail, educational, and recreational facilities which Pulitzer Prize winning architectural critic Allan Temko called “a masterpiece of social design”. The complex, which has won numerous awards, is the largest self-managed, self-built, self-help complex in the country. There, Delancey runs its national moving company, catering, a screening room considered one of the finest in San Francisco, the highly regarded Delancey Street Restaurant, and a bookstore-art gallery-coffeehouse called Crossroads Café, among 15 other ventures.
In 1998, Delancey formed a new division called Delancey CIRCLE (Coalition to Revitalize Communities, Lives, Education and Economies) through which Delancey collaborates with numerous public and private agencies to expand the model.
Although Delancey Street is her primary life work, Silbert is also a recognized national expert in criminal justice. As a criminal justice planner and evaluator, Dr. Silbert has directed the evaluation of over 100 projects, through such agencies as the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute of Corrections, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and the John D. Rockefeller Foundation. She has designed adult and juvenile justice master plans for numerous cities and states, evaluated and developed programs for the California Department of Corrections, headed an innovative program for Mariel Cubans for the INS, NIC and the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and designed and conducted the largest study in this country on prostitution, a field in which she has published extensively. She wrote, designed and implemented a revamp of San Francisco’s juvenile justice system which independent evaluators called “phenomenally successful.” In her 42 years as a trainer, Silbert has designed curriculae and provided training to over 80 police, sheriff’s, and probation departments.
Silbert holds a Bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Massachusetts (1963), and Masters (1965) and Doctorate Degrees (1968) in Counseling Psychology and Criminology from the University of California at Berkeley, has two children and five grandchildren of her own, along with thousands of her Delancey Street "children" (considered by others to be society's "losers") with whom she has cast her lot to prove her belief that with struggle, courage and discipline, together they can be "winners" and transform impossible dreams into reality by pooling their resources, supporting one another, and living lives of purpose and integrity.
to view Dr. Mimi Halper Silbert's complete resume (PDF Document)
“Sentiment cherished—sign, not so much” (San Francisco Chronicle, 9/11/14)
Veronica Faisant interview with Mimi Silbert ("The Week Starts Here," KPFA, 9/29/13)
Chapter in book, Remarkable Leaders, Risk Takers Who Dare Us (American Spirit Publishing, 2014)
“Delancey Street: Enter with a History, Leave with a Future” (American Comeback)
“California Heroes: Mimi Silbert” (DIY Campaigns)
“Delancy Street's Mimi Silbert” (Common Ground, May 2013)
“For many, a first home and a second chance” (San Francisco Chronicle, 12/20/09)
Chapters in book, The Golden Flame, (Avista Press, Healdsburg, CA, 2010)
Chapter in book, Love Each Day: Live each day so you would want to live it again, (Modern History Press, Ann Arbor, MI, 2009)
“Bay Area’s Most Influential Women in Business” (San Francisco Business Times, 04/08)
“NAWBO’s award-winning female entrepreneurs” (Bay Area Businesswoman, 04/08)
Chapter in book "Awearness, Inspiring Stories About How to Make a Difference" (Melcher Media, New York, 2008)
Chapters in book, Influencer, (McGraw-Hill, New York, New York, 2008)
Chapter in book, America’s New Future, 100 New Answers, (Morgan James Publishing, Garden City, New York, 2008)
“Mimi Silbert: Reconquerir La Dignite Grace Au Travail” (Reporters d’ Espoirs, 10/02/08)
“Bay Area Council honors Hall of Famers” (San Francisco Chronicle, 10/03/07)
Chapter in book, Wise Talk Wild Women (Council Oak Books, San Francisco, CA, 2007)
Chapter in Book, "Passionaries, Turning Compassion into Action," (Templeton Foundation Press, 2006)
“Silbert shares secrets of her success” (Brandeis Reporter, 06/06)
"15 Most Influential Women In Bay Area Non-Profits " (San Francisco Business Times, 05/05)
“Play Ball” (Nob Hill Gazette, 05/05)
Chapter in Book, "The Heart of America." (Health Communications, Inc., 2004)
"Pine Manor College Goes to San Francisco to Honor Mimi Silbert." (Pine Manor College Bulletin, Summer 2004)
“Silbert, Farrell receive activist award at KSG”, (Harvard University Gazette, 05/02/02)
“Foundation Honors Social Activists”, (The Harvard Crimson, 05/01/02)
“Delancey Street rejoices” (San Francisco Chronicle, 4/1/02)
"Making Rehabilitation Into A Serious Business" (Los Angeles Times, 03/02)
"Mending Broken Lives" (Monitor on Psychology, 12/01)
"Delancey Street pioneer gets second state term." (12/17/99)
“San Francisco: City on the edge” (Vanity Fair, 09/99)
"Break Out" (People, 07/98)
"She Helps Them Help Themselves" (Fast Company, 07/98)
"Delancey Street: Where drug addicts, criminals, and the homeless go to turn their lives around." (A&E Biography, 08/97)
‘The New Power Brokers” (San Francisco Focus, April 1997)
"Mimi Silbert: The Angel of Delancey Street" (The Reporter, Spring 1997)
"Helping Others Help Themselves: An Interview With Mimi Silbert" (United Airlines Hemispheres, 02/96)
"Mimi's Mission" complete, pp
6-11 (San Francisco Examiner Magazine, 10/96)
“Drug czar taps into Delancey Street” (San Francisco Examiner, 11/28/93)
“AIA Honors: Delancey Street” (San Francisco Examiner, 11/10/93)
"Up and Out" (Massachusettes Magazine, Winter 1992)
"Hitting Bottom Can Be The Beginning" (Parade Magazine, 03/92)
"Pope John Award to Mimi Silbert — Work At Delancey Street" (Bollettino, 07/91)
"Remarkable Women" (San Francisco Focus, 3/91)
"Alumna Of The Year Mimi Silbert" (California Monthly, 12/90)
"To Some Rape Victims, Justice Is Beyond Reach." (The New York Times, 10/90)
“Legislators Pick Their Women of the Year” (San Francisco Independent, 03/27/90)
"Mimi Silbert Stays Tough For Delancey." (San Francisco Chronicle, 03/01/90)
"The Lady of the House" complete, pp 1-3, pp
4-6 (San Francisco Examiner Image Magazine, 07/88)
"With Emmy On Our Minds" (Variety, 06/84)
"How children become prostitutes." (Chicago Tribune, 02/81)
"S.F. prostitutes: scared teen-agers." (Oakland Tribune, 10/80)
"John Maher and Mimi Silbert Among Their Ex-Cons at Rehab Center" (People, 04/78)
Katherine Albrecht (Podcast)
The Criminal Justice Conversations Podcast with David Onek (Podcast)
This Is Your Life Pt. 1 (Quicktime)
This Is Your Life Pt. 2 (Quicktime)
This Is Your Life Pt. 3 (Quicktime)
The Minerva (Quicktime)
U.C. Alumni Awards (Quicktime)
UCSF Medalist 2001 (Quicktime)
San Francisco Foundation - Community Leadership Awards 2003 (Quicktime)
"The Power of Mimi" on 20/20 (Quicktime)
"Person of The Week" World News (Quicktime)