Delancey Street Foundation

I had every intention, until these last few days to title this blog ‘Solidarity’. That was, until I spent some time reflecting on a recent and rare opportunity.

As most of you know, we lost our 26 year old son, Nick, after a 13+ year battle to find long term, affordable, quality care for mental illness and addiction.

We learned, as did Nick, that regretfully, there is no “formula” for recovery although you will find many who promise such. You simply need to spend thousands of dollars per MONTH for a bed. One location I recently viewed online charges $68K per MONTH for your own room. Yes, you read that correctly… 68K per MONTH!

Now of course it is Malibu and you do get a view of the ocean! And you know what…people pay it because they are desperate; and places such as these promise a “formula” … it just requires some $$$$ to unlock the door. I only wish this was the exception rather than the rule!

I can’t tell you how much I loathe those who prey on desperate and hopeless families and individuals. We were one of them. Shame on them. I have the same level of disgust and distaste for televangelists….but I digress.

So why do I make mention of this ‘black mark’ in the world of recover… only to contrast it with Delancey Street and what it inspires.

Delancey Street was founded over 40 years ago in San Francisco by a tenacious young woman and a partner who believed in the power of community to heal; in the power of a neighborhood.

Months before Nick died he listened to my pleas and agreed to apply for entrance at the Los Angeles Delancey Street. All of its locations are free, are open 24/7 and are run, except for its founder, by individuals such as Nick. Everyone comes through the same door and is offered respect, humanity, responsibility, accountability, dignity and care. The principle that guides Delancey Street is “each one, teach one”.

I prefer to think of Delancey Street and those other similar places such as San Patrignano in Italy, as having the right “ingredients”, not a false and costly promise of a “formula”.

Nick applied for Delancey Street that evening and was refused due to his history of mental illness. After he died, I wrote a letter to the founder, Mimi Silbert, and was shocked when she phoned me while choking back tears.

How I treasured that call; that someone would care, that someone would notice this tragic and unnecessary death.

From that single conversation I became inspired to do whatever I could to change the current culture of hopelessness and despair for the many “other Nicks”.

One month ago I had the rare and special opportunity to tour Delancey Street in San Francisco. I wish I could fully express to you how impressed I was and am with what they have accomplished. But it’s more. It’s not just what Delancey Street has accomplished with the “least of these” but it is what they inspire.

In a culture characterized by rejection, shame, failure, hopelessness, despair and death, they inspire hope, life and the healing power of a community.

Martin Luther King Jr. once said in regards to the civil rights struggle that the real goal was “to awaken a sense of shame within the oppressor ….the end is reconciliation; the end is redemption; the end is the creation of the beloved community”. That is what Mimi and those at Delancey Street have inspired; “the creation of the beloved community”.

So now, years after Nick’s struggle and his early death, I ask myself “are you and I building such communities where our brokenness informs our humanity or have we constructed fortresses to hide from the coming storm?”

Have we become immune to the devastation that surrounds us? The lives lost, the families destroyed? Is it too late? Who will we link arms with? It is time.

Until then, I will remember this; that Delancey Street teaches me that there is hope and power to change in community. May their tribe increase!



  1. · · Reply

    Well said, Jim. Community, dignity, shared values, relentless pursuit of that which connects all of us. Somehow, as you say, in the age of Facebook, fast food, brief encounters, pseudo intimacy is briefly touched upon. We then go on our lonely ways to struggle alone, outside of community.

    The model has been forgotten. New fixes aren’t working.

    Time for a top to bottom change that, I believe will return us to where we once were.

    1. I agree Carl .. we have lost our way and are being battered by a storm. Fortunate to have you on board.

  2. What is the follow up rate of those who voluntarily leave treatment?
    Albert Einstein provides both medication assisted treatment for opiate addiction, there is Next Steps for other addictions (there is no treatment for cocaine addiction except to keep the patient away from the drug and hope this time it works) and mental health services.

    1. Jocelyn, I don’t have an answer for your question, but I do know that Delancey accepts only 30 to 40% of those who apply, but for those who do come in, after years of failure and incarceration, they stay an average of 4 years I have been told. Unlike any place I have visited and regretfully, I have been to a large number of in patient recovery locations. They are not for there any such place?.. but there is much to learn from their model of care.

  3. Hi Jim …

    I was touched by your love for your son. I want you to know that your special intentions are counted among my prayers this day … and that you are not alone.

    I have bi-polar disorder and Michelle has schizo-affective disorder. We are both in long-term recovery from addictions. In 2007 we pooled our SSA Disability checks to open a Catholic Worker house of hospitality for homeless men and women in the early stages of recovery from addictions. Our community was the outcome of a JustFaith Ministries formation process.
    About half our guests have a lifetime diagnosis of mental illness (dual diagnosed) and half are felon reentry. Over 100 men and women have come to stay with us for about a year. Over 80% have achieved sustainable faith … measured as one year of continuous abstinence from drugs and alcohol. It’s love that cures!

    Our community was founded upon a belief in the necessity of personal conversion, a transforming spiritual experience, confession, restitution and service to others. Marianist priests and brothers are our spiritual advisors and friends. Our abstinence-based treatment methodology is the ancient monastic rhythm of daily work, prayer, meditation, 12 Step study and service to others. It’s LOVE that cures!

    We are fully self-supporting. We fund our community through sale of $12 annual co-op membership in the Catholic Internet Television Network. CITVN is organized as an Ohio social cooperative business. CITVN is intentionally not 501(C)3 tax-exempt. Co-op members work for room and board … living with less so that other homeless addicts may live. The Works of Mercy are an abiding norm for the Catholic Worker Movement. We decline government and institutional funding … because we protest war and all forms of violence, promote the principles of Catholic Social Teaching and we pray.

    We advocate Personalism, a philosophy which regards the freedom and dignity of each person as the basis, focus and goal of all metaphysics and morals. In following such wisdom, we move away from a self-centered individualism toward the good of the other. This is to be done by taking personal responsibility for changing conditions, rather than looking to the state or other institutions to provide impersonal “charity.” We pray for a Church renewed by this philosophy and for a time when all those who feel excluded from participation are welcomed with love.

    The Catholic Internet Television Network (CITVN) is a global Catholic academic videoconference forum and social network. Think of CITVN as a Catholic version of TED TV and Catholic Worker virtual roundtable discussions for the clarification of thought.

    Featured academic presentations are distributed for free each month to 46,651 Catholic college professors, religious, DREs, pastors, K12 teachers, diocesan communications directors, hospital administrators, media editors, nonprofit directors, and LinkedIn thought leaders located in 121 countries. Lectures function as an invitation to participate in global webconference events.

    CITVN is the United States Regional Representative for Global Ethics Network. Ecumenical outreach extends to over 82,000 registered participants, who are engaged in ethical issues and research.

    There are three dimensions to CITVN:

    VIRTUAL FAITH COMMUNITIES – CITVN provides a webconference social network featuring an automated video publishing system. Tools include: custom group page, video channels with academic categories, event scheduling, forums, blogs, members, moderation controls, monetization and social network integration.

    CITVN COLLEGE FORUM provides free interactive HD video-synced-to-PowerPoint documentary of Catholic university keynote lectures for Catholic universities and associations.

    IN THE ROOMS provides videoconference rooms for 12-Step and Alanon groups. With over 258,000 members located in 136 countries and growing exponentially, In The Rooms is the largest most trafficked collection of Video Meeting Rooms for 12 Step communities in the world.


    CITVN is not just about audio … or video … or PowerPoint

    We integrate all of them, plus animations, advertising, JavaScript, applets, images, graphics, virtual handouts and calls to action into a rich interactive experience that’s unique.

    CITVN presentations weave together, in a tightly synchronized fashion:

     Video libraries that showcase your organization’s best experts and communicators

     Fully animated PowerPoint slides and images, rendered in crisp detail that far exceeds what can be done in a video window

     Just-in-time footnotes and virtual handouts that can direct the viewer to web pages, white papers, contact information, and technical documents

     Calls to Action: Q&A, Appointment Scheduling (Outlook/Google calendar integration), Donation, Registration, Subscription, FluidSurvey, Social Network Intregration, CITVN Call Center Support and JOIN ME in Videoconference

    Sainthood Cause for Dorothy Day

    CITVN is a member of:

    Catholic Press Association
    SIGNIS – World Association For Catholic Communication
    Aleteia Producer Network
    Inter Mirfica Global Catholic Media Network
    AdEthics Catholic Advertising Network
    Global Ethics Network
    United Nations Civil Society Organization
    Catholic Labor Network
    Catholic Peacebuilding Network
    National Catholic Council on Addictions
    Association of Recovery Community Organizations
    National Association of Recovery Residences

    CITVN is an exchange of gifts with the poor … CITVN is our gift to you!

    May God’s peace be with your soul!

    Stephen DeVol
    CITVN Executive Producer
    Catholic Worker Movement
    (937) 938-5784

    1. Carl J. Fielstra · · Reply


      Amazing and, in my view, spot-on!

      You may want to re-think things. The cleanness of not beholding to anyone but God and those served feels good. As I read through the letter it seemed DeVol was breathing fresh air few others in the nonprofit world enjoy due to their need to please and keep the money coming in.

      I re-suggest the idea I earlier floated past you, i.e., starting with a home for up to six like-mind and like afflicted people (preferably of the same gender) who will pool their resources (SSI/SSD), live in a faith-based social model community. This seems to track DeVol’s model and closely resembles what we tried to accomplish through Green Oak Ranch Ministries (albeit, we opted for non-profit status).

      This model can begin today. No Boards, incorporations, tax exempt applications, etc. The pooled funds should be enough to pay the rent or mortgage with funds left over for management.

      I’ll proceed with the incorporation documents, but ask you to think this model through before we seek tax exempt status.

    2. · · Reply

      In my view, an excellent design. I sense the freedom you enjoy not beholding to funding sources and the trappings that come with formalized nonprofit, tax exempt status.

      I recently retired (sort of) from a nonprofit residential, social-model, faith based drug and alcohol community. We did not seek government support, but did enjoy relief from property tax (not an insignificant benefit inasmuch as we occupied a 142-acre parcel in a urbanized area of southern California). We used our resources, including the site, to generate the revenue to sustain a program for 60 – 70 adults,

      It felt good to sleep at night knowing the funds we used were those we generated.

      My philosophy was “to prepare people to independently function in the socio-economic mainstream we should model this as a community.” Organizational begging is a contrary setting for learning individual independence.

      God bless you in your labors.

      Carl J. Fielstra, J.D.

    3. Stephen, thank you for your insightful and compassionate words. I couldn’t agree more .. “it’s LOVE that cures”. Thankfully, the God of Jesus is fully invested in love.. a courageous act indeed. Thank you also for the information on the Catholic network. Very to good to have. Your words reminded me of a song my daughter wrote in honor of the Wheelers after they lost their son at the Sandy Hook killing. It’s titled “It’s Love That Wins”. Here’s the link, I hope you’ll enjoy it. Thanks you for your work and the compassion you bring to it. Jim

      1. · ·


        Vanessa’s song is beautiful and right on the mark. Somehow and in some way God crafts our sadness into comfort and hope for ourselves and others.

        I’m reminded of the “tube of toothpaste” metaphor, “we find out what’s inside when pressure is applied from the outside.” The squeezing of your family due to Nick’s untimely death has produced incredible, admirable results from deep within. Allowing the feelings to spill over into other tragedies like Sandy Hook is evidence of your own kind sand gentle hearts that comforts you and many others who suffer.

        The question that haunts your mind, “what now” is most appropriate. From the tragedies come compassion-driven responses on behalf of the multitude of others now similarly suffering.

        Keep your heart flesh-like, not stone, for out of your hearts come the true issues in life.

        Blessings, my friends.

        Carl J. Fielstra

  4. What a beautiful tribute to Nick your video. Your work is a testament to your deep love and caring. I wanted to let you know that I’ve added your video to the website that I’ve been curating in memory of my 23 year old son who was killed almost 20 months ago.
    The site is a collection of blogs, articles, videos, websites, and any other resources that might be helpful or meaningful to bereaved parents and siblings.

    1. Thank you that you would include Nicks story in your work. My best to you and this effort. Jim

  5. Look forward to hearing your story and hope at the Conference in Utah. I too am a recoverying addiction and alcoholic and sought for years to find not only myself but a means of recovery that I could afford. The most important part of affordable recovery opportunity is the standard of care and expertise that goes into it. Many would call the old saying “you get what you pay for”. This is no more true than the fact that people who are talented at what they do cost more and more to provide these services. This is why we have tried to establish an affordable addiction recovery program right in small town Utah, that would allow those who would otherwise be considered indigent, to have access to state of the art treatment and professionals with over 50 years experience. Please visit our Utah Drug Rehabs Website for more information. I would love to talk to you about some of the great ideas we have moving forward to make treatment more accessible to those in need. God Bless

  6. I look forward to hearing more about this critical work. I have begun supporting The Center for Life Change here in Temecula, California for exactly the same reasons you stated. I hope to meet you at the conference. Please introduce yourself.

  7. Jim, I am sitting at my computer sobbing after watching your YOU tube video about Nick. I am so genuinely sorry for your family’s loss. I like you… have been searching for resources for five yrs for our son K****. Your sorry sends chills down my spine, your story almost parallels our sons life. We live right down the street from the Santa Rosa Plateau. The plateau is our sons safe haven. I often go up there with him for peace and serenity. He feels he has been stripped from all pleasures of life but does find solace in the plateau. He has been struggling since he was fifteen which was when we moved to Murrieta in 1994. Five years ago he was diagnosed with chronic pancreatitis. He was put on prescription drugs for two yrs. and while weaning off he lost his medical and went into full blown withdrawals. It has been a living nightmare for my family and it is just now coming to a head as I type. I feel it in my soul we are losing him. Everyday I wake up not knowing if he will still be alive. He stated yesterday that he was at his end. I am desperate!! I still don’t understand how this can be fixed. See, he and his wife live with us and we have watched them spiral downward into drug abuse which started with the prescription drugs. I don’t believe in coincidences, I believe I was led to this this therapist today which I called out of desperation, with no appointment or fee and she talked to me for nearly 30 minutes. We hung up and five minutes later she called back with your story and asked me to go to the website. Jim I don’t how to reach your personal e-mail and I know this will go public and I have reservations about sending it but I’m desperate and will go to any lengths to help my child.

    A mothers desperate cry for help…

    1. Lori.. sent you an email… please email or phone

      1. Carl J. Fielstra · ·

        Jim, Your ministry is underway. Key words from the mother crying desperately for help: “have been searching for resources for five years for our son,” “I am desperate,” “I don’t believe in coincidences,” “she called back with your story,” I…will go to any lengths to help my child.”

        There is none more qualified to comfort and help.

        2 Corinthians 1:3

  8. Jim, thank you, everything on your tribute to your son is true and beautiful. We just lost our son Jim to this terrible disease and he also was dual diagnosed, he tried numerous times for recovery, more then I count and I was always so proud of him for trying and I told him so. Losing him to this monster is the hardest thing I will ever have to Indore, getting up each day and working is about all I can do at the moment, but thanks to you and your video which I will continue to watch, I believe I will begin to heal in time. Its only 4 weeks so its still so very raw. I belong to Naranon, which helped me to love Jim even in his addiction, I never could detach though, I tried but it didn’t work so well, I never could put him out either and I am thankful today that I didn’t, that I always went with my heart.
    I miss him terribly, I wish I could just hold him one more time. I do believe we did the best in helping with his recovery, at least the best we knew how. Now we have to live with that.
    Again I thank you and I hope to read more. God Bless you and your family, it is our faith that will see us through.

    1. Terri… it is for this very reason that I told Nick’s story. I knew then and I know now that the very best we can do for each other in the midst of this unbearable pain is to offer ‘presence’. I completely understand your pain and your broken heart over the loss of your Beautiful Boy. I also struggled enormously with the advice to “detach with love”. After I lost Nick I communicated with someone who has dedicated her life to helping those such as Nick and your Jim. Through her tears she said that Nick… and I believe this can be said of Jim .. received a great gift in being one of the very few who struggle with addiction that KNOW they are loved. This was from someone who has worked with thousands of those struggling with addiction. They brought some comfort to me and I hope they will to you as well. I don’t blog very often but I remain grateful that some find this blog and the film and they find comfort in knowing they are not alone. Not now… not ever. My love to you and your family. Jim

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