Mission, Vision, Values & History
As a multi-issue, multi-strategy organization, Dolores Street has tremendous opportunities to both improve people’s lives on an individual level as well as affect broader social change by engaging in advocacy and community organizing efforts to address the root causes of suffering and injustice.
Dolores Street Community Services nurtures individual wellness and cultivates collective power among low-income and immigrant communities to create a more just society.
We envision a vibrant and diverse San Francisco where multiple cultures, life experiences and contributions are honored, and all people live with dignity and hope. Our vision is of a just and sustainable community where all residents – regardless of income, immigration, or health status – have equal rights and access to resources and are empowered to fully participate in shaping the City’s future.
Those who are the most marginalized by our society have a right to build community and access resources for a healthy life
Shared experiences create connections that build power for common struggles
People most affected by injustice should be leaders in creating solutions
Finding strength in individual struggles gives rise to transformative change
All people have intrinsic value and make unique contributions to our neighborhood and city.
Promote labor rights awareness and support vulnerable populations.
Dolores Street Community Services (DSCS) has steadily served the Mission District for over 40 years. From its early onset back in 1982, the organization was committed to responding to the most urgent community needs. At that time, the city of San Francisco had become a destination for refugees fleeing war and famine in Central America, leading to a housing crisis. The Mayor of San Francisco, Dianne Feinstein, asked the city’s churches to open their doors, and Dolores Street Baptist Church was the first to answer the call.
A shelter began operating within the basement of the church, and it provided meals and a place to sleep for refugees in need. It became the first program of DSCS and what is now known as the Dolores Shelter Program. Over the next 10 years, the shelter continued to serve as the primary provider of shelter to the low-income, Latinx community of San Francisco. In 1993, the church burned down, and the program relocated. Today, the program resides in a church on South Van Ness Avenue and remains an essential resource for the unhoused community in the Mission. In fact, the program later launched Jazzie’s Place in 2015, an LGBTQ-dedicated shelter space and the first of its kind. Through its evolution, the program has committed to being a pillar for safe, affirming, and dignified housing, particularly for those who identify as LGBTQ and Latinx.
Over the years, DSCS has expanded significantly and always in response to community needs. In the mid-1990’s, HIV/AIDS presented a new housing crisis, as many people were being diagnosed with AIDS, losing their housing, and in need of end-of-life care. The organization opened the Richard M. Cohen Residence in 1995, which was an old Victorian cottage that became a place where people living with HIV/AIDS could live out their last days in peace. With advancements in treatment and prevention, the program has since evolved into a transitional housing program that empowers low-income people living with HIV to transition to independent living, ensuring they have the care, resources, and support to do so.
In the early 2000’s, the immigrant community began to experience a surge in ICE activities and deportations. As an organization rooted in immigration justice, DSCS expanded its work and formally entered the community organizing space. Under the leadership of Eric Quezada, DSCS created the San Francisco Immigrant Legal and Education Network (SFILEN), a collaborative of local community providers offering outreach, education, and free or low-cost services to immigrants. In 2008, DSCS launched its own legal program, focused specifically on providing free legal services for immigrants facing deportation. Still leading efforts today, DSCS now has a team of attorneys providing legal representation and advocacy across a range of complex cases. The organization also leads the San Francisco Rapid Response Network, a collaboration of legal organizations dedicated to responding to ICE activity through quick action, attorney activation and wrap-around services.
As the Women’s Collective and the San Francisco Day Labor Program joined our team in 2012, worker rights soon became a pillar of our work. These programs unite immigrants to build community power and opportunity, while advocating for dignified work and fair wages for all. Our new Worker Cooperative follows that mission, creating a social enterprise that puts immigrant workers at the heart of developing and executing its business model.
Our work in housing justice has also grown substantially. Through programs such as Casa Quezada, The Stay Over Program, Mission Inn and Casa Esperanza, our work has expanded access to housing for undocumented immigrants, families, and young people ages 18-24. More recently we launched an Access Point, which acts as an entry point for people who experience homelessness in the Mission. We’ve used innovative and often first of its kind program models to meet communities where they are at and provide the services they need. That work is complimented by our Mission SRO Collaborative and Tenant Counseling programs, which focus on eviction prevention and fighting for tenant rights.
Recently, we have added more programs broadening the support DSCS can offer. DSCS can focus on food and meal distribution to address the food imbalance which affects our community most of all. DSCS also launched a Wellness Program, emphasizing community health and wellness, and providing the education and tools to help our communities thrive.
As the organization continues to grow today, our strategy has focused on making the greatest impact for the people we serve. That work has reflected four key areas – immigration rights, worker rights, housing rights, and health justice. By working to improve these 4 areas of living, we can affect broader social change that addresses the root causes of suffering and injustice. As we look to the future, DSCS is more committed than ever to continue this fight.
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