Downtown Streets Team is ending homelessness by restoring the dignity and rebuilding the lives of unhoused men and women.
Founded in 2005, Downtown Streets Team is now beautifying thirteen Bay Area communities: Palo Alto, San Jose, Sunnyvale, San Rafael, Novato, Hayward, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Sacramento, West Sacramento, Oakland, Berkeley, and Modesto, with more on the way. We now serve over 750 unhoused men and women a year with almost 50 staff members and growing. Our goal is to end homelessness in our lifetime: one community at a time.
Downtown Streets Team is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Our Tax ID is 20-5242330.
View our Annual Reports: 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
Dignity Above All: We are a community that becomes greater than the sum of our parts by building a social movement that's dignified, authentic and celebratory.
Inclusive Collaboration: Staff, Volunteers, and Partners work on the same Team to support Team Members achieving their own success because we care about everyone finding their place at DST.
Personal + Professional Grit: We stay committed to action through uncertainty; we constantly incorporate improvements and innovations; and we prioritize taking care of ourselves and each other.
Whatever It Takes: We are not afraid of working whenever and wherever Team Members need us.
People First: We believe in the power of our shared humanity, determination, and resilience even in the face of insurmountable adversity.
Eileen Richardson takes a break from the tech industry, decides to pop into a food closet in Palo Alto to volunteer
The Business Improvement District (BID) in Palo Alto develops the idea that would become Downtown Streets Team (DST)
Eileen takes over the BID and launches DST’s first team with $45k and four Team Members
The Santa Clara County Point-In-Time Census counts 357 unhoused individuals in Palo Alto, a number which DST will help reduce 54% by 2013
DST grows beyond the BID and becomes a certified 501 (c) (3), the Team expands in Palo Alto
DST expands to new communities in California and Florida
Downtown Streets Team receives a $100,000 investment from the Peery Foundation
DST adds second employee , Chris Richardson (Eileen’s son) who would become Chief Program Officer in 2016
DST places in the Top 50 Innovations in American Government by Harvard’s Ash Institute
DST adds third employee, Elfreda Strydom, now Chief Operations Officer
DST is awarded the prestigious Tall Tree Award by the Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce
The first work-experience Team focused on The Jungle encampment, the Clean Creeks Healthy Communities project, launches in San Jose
DST expands to it’s third Bay Area city: Sunnyvale
Joan Baez, Emmylou Harris, and Jackson Browne perform at DST’s sold out benefit concert which raises over $380,000
DST bridges the bay and launches a team in San Rafael, the first team in Marin County
In an unprecedented move, the City of San Jose uses its general funds to support DST housing 100 people from the The Jungle, a number which DST will surpass within the first 18 months of the contract
DST takes over operations of the food closet at All Saints Church in Palo Alto and rebrands it as Downtown Food Closet
Over 300 Team Members reach employment and 300 find housing through DST
DST celebrates 10 years of ending homelessness in the Bay Area and looks towards the future
DST launches its first social enterprise: KARTMA Street Cafe
February, DST expands to a fifth Bay Area city: San Francisco
June, DST expands to a sixth Bay Area city: Hayward
August, DST expands to a seventh Bay Area city: Novato
January, our San Rafael Team wins the Heart of Marin award for Excellence in Innovation, from Center for Volunteer and Nonprofit Leadership (CVNL)
October, DST expands to an eighth city: Santa Cruz
DST launches in Sacramento, West Sacramento, Berkeley, and Oakland
DST is named one of only five Best Practices in CA in the League of CA Cities and CA State Association of Counties Homelessness Task Force report
DST launches in Modesto, CA
Eileen wins the James Irvine Leadership Award
DST launches in Salinas, CA
DST launches in Redwood City, CA
Eileen has been building and refining a non-conforming solution to homelessness, called Downtown Streets Team for close to 15 years. She has relentlessly pursued her vision to build positive communities which include and empower unhoused people throughout Northern CA.
A secretary, and a single mother of two young children, the odds were stacked against her, but Eileen did not let anything stand in the way of her dreams. Her street smarts, business acumen and ambition led to an incredible career - 15 years in the high-tech industry - 10 as a venture capitalist and 5 as CEO of two high tech companies. It was Eileen’s love of music and belief that the internet could change the world that led her to be the become the first CEO of Napster, where she helped grow the infamous startup from a few thousand users to 20 million--the fastest growing brand in history at the time.
With her children in high school, Eileen decided to take a break from the world of fast-paced high tech and began volunteering at a food pantry in Palo Alto. It was there she fell in love with the men and women there, and at the same time witnessed the loss of dignity and the toll it took on these individuals who were living on the streets.
Guided by the principle that everyone deserved the opportunity to become a proud, productive member of their community, and driven to reduce the impacts of homelessness, such as litter and panhandling, on the community and downtown areas, Eileen launched the very first Downtown Streets Team (DST) in 2005.
Over the years, Eileen has relentlessly pursued this vision to build positive communities which include and empower unhoused people throughout Northern CA. Since its inception, DST has grown from serving four Team Members (homeless volunteers), a $45,000 annual budget, and Eileen as the sole employee to an agency with an annual budget of $8M operating Teams in over a dozen cities in eight counties in California and two satellite operations in Florida, and serves 1000+ Team Members a year.
Eileen’s model used in every DST Team offers volunteer opportunities and wrap-around services to help individuals experiencing homelessness (Team Members) rebuild their lives, opening the door for permanent housing and long-term employment. Team Members beautify the cities they volunteer in for up to 20 hours per week and receive case management, job training, employment services, and basic-needs stipends to transition from homelessness to productive lives back in their communities. This approach renews dignity and provides opportunities for personal and professional growth among its Team Members.
DST has been named one of only five ‘Evidence-Based Best Practices in Ending Homelessness’ in the State of California according to the 2018 Homelessness Task Force Report released by the League of California Cities and the California State Association of Counties and is nearing its 2000th success story. The program has also been named a ‘Top 50 Innovation in American Government’ by the Ash Institute at Harvard’s Kennedy School and has been acknowledged by city leadership in every city it operates in as “outstanding, best in class or innovative “.
For her pioneering leadership at the helm of DST, Eileen has also been recognized as an influential visionary. In the Spring of 2018 Eileen was named one of 30 Visionaries by the New York Times, using innovative technology for good; she has been named a Paul Harris Rotary Fellow; and recognized with the ‘Athena Lifetime Achievement Award’ in 2015 by the Chamber of Commerce in Palo Alto. Most recently, Eileen is being recognized as a winner of the 2019 James Irvine Leadership Award.
As a leader in the world of nonprofit employment, DST has also been recognized as an outstanding place to work and has received numerous ‘Best Nonprofit to Work For’ awards from The Nonprofit Times. Eileen is the mother of two, and grandmother of two. She lives in Mountain View, CA and studied both Accounting and Business Administration at St. Thomas Aquinas College.
Her belief remains: every person deserves, needs and wants a meaningful position in their community and that unhoused people are the solution to homelessness.