2019 Award Recipient

Eileen Richardson

Downtown Streets Team

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Ending Homelessness through community, teamwork, and dignity

On any given night, 130,000 Californians experience homelessness. The Bay Area has one of the largest homeless populations in the country. With stagnant incomes and rising housing costs, finding affordable housing is near impossible.

Eileen Richardson knows that homelessness is a complex issue with no single root cause or a standalone solution. Richardson, the former CEO of Napster, took a break from the tech industry and began volunteering at a local food bank. She saw individuals experiencing homelessness often losing their sense of dignity while living on the street. Guided by the principle that everyone can become a proud, productive member of their community, Richardson’s Downtown Streets Team (DST) was born.

DST offers volunteer opportunities and wrap-around services to help individuals experiencing homelessness rebuild their lives, opening the door for permanent supportive housing and long-term employment.

“Downtown Streets Team is ending homelessness through community,” Richardson said.

By cleaning up community streets for up to 20 hours per week, people experiencing homelessness receive case management, job training, employment services, and basic-needs stipends to transition from homelessness to permanent housing. This approach renews dignity and provides opportunities for personal and professional growth among its Team Members (or clients).

Serving more than 1,000 individuals across a dozen California cities, DST connects Team Members with opportunities that match their unique interests and situations. Nearly nine in 10 (88 percent) graduates from DST’s work experience program retain employment for 90 days or more. Team Members also play a vital role in community cleanups. In 2019 alone, Team Members removed 30,566 needles and 5.4 million gallons of debris from the streets and parks of San Francisco.

Downtown Streets Team is ending homelessness through community.

Eileen Richardson

Equally important is the morale and dignity DST builds within individuals. One example is the weekly Success Team Meeting, high-energy affairs where newcomers are welcomed with open arms and team members are recognized for service. DST also empowers individuals to set and achieve their own housing and employment goals while contributing to their local communities.

“Every day we see miracles of people becoming important parts of their community’s fabric again — often people who were written off. That gets me up every morning.”

After 17 years of helming Downtown Streets Team as founding CEO, Eileen announced her intent to retire confident in the organization’s commitment and capacity to pursue her vision of ending homelessness. Under her leadership, DST expanded to serve 16 communities throughout the Bay Area and Central California, and established Streets Team Enterprises– a social enterprise that provides training and transitional employment for clients seeking to reenter the workforce.


Video by Talking Eyes Media

Eileen Richardson

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Downtown Streets Team


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Eileen Richardson retired in 2022.

The written profile and video reflect the work of the leader(s) the year they received a Leadership Award. Please contact the leader(s) for current information.