We believe small steps compound over time.

Every time we take on a new project, our approach gains more support and our results get talked about.

Media Policy

Urban Alchemy attempts to respond to media requests when appropriate and when workable with the organization’s schedule. On a case-by-case basis, we may be able to accommodate a media walkthrough of our service areas to help provide a better understanding of the challenges faced by our communities and the work our Practitioners undertake every day. Inquires may be made through the Contact page on the Urban Alchemy website.

On-site, unscheduled interviews

At times members of the public or individuals claiming to represent media will film and interview our Practitioners in the street. Please know that UA’s mission of community transformation and our approach of positive engagement extends to all members of the community at all times. Practitioners try to assist members of the public with questions when appropriate or find a UA supervisor who can assist. For questions on UA policy, procedures or other UA-related matters, we ask that the media and public refer to the UA FAQs on the website. General inquiries and media inquiries may be made through the Contact page on the website.

Video and photography

Urban Alchemy Practitioners understand that they are often performing their work in public spaces, and at those times they make no attempt to interfere with the public’s right to film or photograph in those public spaces.

Additionally, at times members of the media arrange to shadow UA Practitioners in their work, and UA will facilitate the photographer/ videographer needs while at the same time asking that the media to please respect the privacy and consent of our guests.

UA prides itself on its consistent and overwhelming positive interaction with the community. However, on some occasions there have been videos posted by members of the public on social media or other outlets that potentially show a UA interaction with the public that does not meet our high standards of positive engagement and is not in compliance with UA policy. Please know that such potential interactions by UA Practitioners are taken seriously by the organization and its leadership. These occurrences are investigated by UA and disciplinary action is taken when warranted. It is also the case that videos posted showing an out-of-compliance interaction may be missing a context, either through editing or unavailable footage, that is needed in order to develop a thorough and accurate assessment of events. UA strives to always gain such necessary context in its investigative inquiries and asks that members of the public bring the same consideration of context when filming or posting any video.


Urban Alchemy discloses its financial information as required under San Francisco city ordinance 12L.5.
The documents are available here for download.


Last Updated, May 2, 2022

Urban Alchemy is a nonprofit social enterprise. Our mission is to transform people and places through respect and compassion to heal communities challenged by the intersection of extreme poverty, mental illness, addiction, and homelessness.

When individuals are suffering in our public spaces, Urban Alchemy offers solutions. When a neighborhood, street, or intersection earns a reputation as a place to avoid, we turn it around. Urban Alchemy staff, known as Practitioners, create a peaceful and supportive presence, helping our communities rebuild a sense of pride through engagement and services.

Since our founding in 2018, Urban Alchemy has grown into a thriving organization employing more than 1,000 people and serving thousands daily. We provide a variety of services in cities throughout Northern and Southern California and are in the process of expanding nationally.

Most Urban Alchemy employees, including leadership, experienced long-term incarceration. When fully embraced, this life experience — including the difficult personal inner work it requires — holds the possibility of producing people with extraordinary emotional intelligence, exceptional social skills, and unique leadership qualities. 

The name Urban Alchemy references the process of spiritual and social transformation that our Practitioners engage in, both internally and in practice with all members of the public. Our Practitioners actively assess, engage, and serve some of the most traumatized and vulnerable individuals in our urban centers. This requires that we be impeccable with our spirit, our words, and our actions. Meeting people where they are often takes our Practitioners to some dark places, but they are armed with a powerful resolve that communicates caring, safety, non-judgement, and kindness. The engagements we have uplift and empower people who are struggling and also provide our Practitioners the opportunity to learn and grow.

Urban Alchemy offers four core services designed to meet the needs of the people and places in the communities we work.

1. Community Engagement and Outreach: calming neighborhoods and public spaces by forming bonds with residents, promoting positive behavior, and connecting people to services; this work includes placing outreach workers and community engagement specialists in neighborhoods as well as providing first-responders to non-emergency 911 calls related to homelessness, mental health, and addiction

2. Interim Housing: operating safe camping, safe parking, tiny homes, hotels, and other types of client-centered, low-barrier alternatives to sleeping in public spaces

3. Hygiene Services: providing and monitoring safe, clean, and welcoming public bathrooms and mobile showers that offer dignity to those in need while improving public health

4. Street Cleaning: removing garbage and debris from streets and other public spaces, restoring a sense of pride to neglected communities

Our effectiveness has been widely recognized as demonstrated by the increasing demand for our services. In just three years we have grown over 500% are now operating in multiple cities. In the last 12 months alone, Urban Alchemy has improved conditions in neighborhoods by:

1. Employing over 1,000 formerly incarcerated individuals in good paying jobs with a career path

2. Engaging in over 6,000 de-escalations that kept the community safe without police involvement

3. Connecting thousands of unhoused people to services that met their immediate and long-term needs

4. Saving the lives of over 700 people through overdose reversals and other interventions

5. Sheltering over 500 people each night in low-barrier, client-centered facilities

a. Providing over 600,000 toilet flushes and 14,000 showers for people in need

b. Removing nearly 300 tons of trash from communities that are often neglected

We have hundreds of thousands of engagements with people each year and continue to improve our data collection and reporting. However, statistics do not fully illustrate the transformative effects that Urban Alchemy has on the staff we employ, people we serve, and communities we heal. Click here to see Urban Alchemy in action and here for a video describing our work in more detail.

Urban Alchemy is a true social enterprise and receives over 98% of our funding from contracts. Government agencies, universities, community groups, and businesses often struggle to address chaotic conditions in public spaces and to support those who are suffering the most. Those looking for effective alternatives to conventional social services and ineffective security efforts contract with Urban Alchemy to restore dignity and peace in a community, one person at a time. We currently have 21 contracts for approximately $50 million with organization in the four cities we serve.

As a new, fast-growing organization, philanthropic donations have not kept pace with our expansion. Urban Alchemy is working to increase our fundraising so we can invest in infrastructure and have capital to grow. We will continue to focus on being a sustainable social enterprise rather than a charity. However, we also continue raising money to support our organizational development and growth. Click here for more information on donating to Urban Alchemy.

Urban Alchemy’s contracts with a variety of public and private organizations such as: the City & County of San Francisco, the City of Los Angeles, the City of Oakland, UC Hastings; the Tenderloin Community Benefit District; the Mid-Market Foundation; Supreme; the San Francisco Public Library; the Library Foundation of Los Angeles, Bay Area Rapid Transit, and Austin ECHO.

Urban Alchemy’s leadership team is made up of experts who bring decades of wisdom from a wide range of experiences, communities, and backgrounds.

Dr. Lena Miller, Chief Executive Officer

Dr. Lena Miller is the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Urban Alchemy, providing oversight and guidance to the team responsible for the management, monitoring, and evaluation of all Urban Alchemy’s programs and services. Dr. Miller has two masters’ degrees in social work and psychology and completed her PsyD (Doctor of Psychology) in 2020. She has more than 20 years of experience providing effective services to low-income and homeless youth, adults, and families.

Dr. Miller grew up in the Bayview Hunters Point neighborhoods of San Francisco. This community is populated primarily by African Americans and other racial minorities and historically isolated from the rest of San Francisco. Pollution, substandard housing, declining infrastructure, limited employment opportunities, and racial discrimination have been ongoing problems for decades. James Baldwin documented the marginalization of the community in a 1963 documentary, “Take This Hammer,” stating, “this is the San Francisco America pretends does not exist.

Upon coming of age amidst the crack epidemic and the resulting gun violence of the era, Dr. Miller founded GIRLS 2000, a youth development program within Hunters Point’s public housing community, that focused on supporting young women, ages 10-18 living in the community. Dr. Miller founded GIRLS 2000 to support other youth in the community to endure the trauma that she experienced growing up, watching friends and families succumb to addiction, multiple homicides, mass incarceration, and a general sense of growing hopelessness. GIRLS 2000 was renamed Hunters Point Family and under Dr. Miller’s leadership expanded to provide a wide variety of social services and employment programs for community members.

After working for almost 20 years with public health officials and other nonprofit leaders to try and get help for the psychological trauma experienced by Hunters Point’s youth and their families, in 2017 Dr. Miller enrolled in graduate school to pursue her doctorate in psychology.  She focused on the impact of trauma, resilience, and healing in her studies and dissertation.  This training would ultimately become the organizing principal for Urban Alchemy: transforming deep trauma into resilience and community revitalization.  As with almost all residents of Bayview Hunters Point, Lena was personally impacted by mental illness, addiction, and homelessness in her own family.  These experiences provided a visceral knowing and empathy that inform every aspect of Urban Alchemy’s program model and services. Today all services at Urban Alchemy are designed with the fundamental question in mind: how would you want your loved ones treated if they were using our services?  UA strives to treat all our guests that way, because indeed all our guests are somebody’s loved ones, and many are actually the loved ones of UA staff.

Lena combined her experiences growing up and working in a vibrant working-class community that was scarred by decades of trauma, partnering with city government, and studying resilience to create Urban Alchemy, a nonprofit social enterprise that utilizes experience-based and evidence-based psychological principles to transform the casualties and trauma of the drug war and other social injustices into individual and community empowerment.

Bayron Wilson, Chief Operations Officer

Mr. Bayron Wilson is the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Urban Alchemy. He oversees all Urban Alchemy services. Some of his responsibilities include negotiating contracts, representing Urban Alchemy at public and private meetings, coaching Urban Alchemy’s managers, and acting as a support and problem solver to Urban Alchemy employees. Mr. Wilson is currently leading efforts to launch the Urban Alchemy Academy and the Urban Alchemist Leadership Institute to support staff and develop Urban Alchemy’s next generation of leaders.

Mr. Wilson has over 15 years of experience working with formerly incarcerated individuals to reenter the workforce and reestablish social stability. Mr. Wilson has managed nonprofit organizations that utilize social entrepreneurship to develop employment opportunities for individuals who encounter multiple barriers to employment. He is also a native of San Francisco’s

Bayview Hunters Point community. Upon graduating from Grambling University with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, Mr. Wilson returned home. He was not able to escape from the chaos and violence that plagued the community and was incarcerated for 10 years. During this time, Mr. Wilson became a high-level clerk and was in a position where he could support many incarcerated individuals to structure their minds, time, and activities so that they could return home. Mr. Wilson utilized his time to improve himself and that of so many others; despite being sentenced to life in prison, he was paroled within 10 years.

Upon earning his freedom, Mr. Wilson became a financial manager for low-income employees/participants at social enterprise, Rubicon Programs. Mr. Wilson quickly rose through the ranks from Financial Counselor to Program Manager. He developed experience managing multiple programs, establishing a positive workplace culture, producing marketing and communications materials, budgeting, and more. Mr. Wilson has learned to combine his education, experience in prison, and expertise in social enterprise to boldly operationalize the theory, values, and mission of Urban Alchemy into consistently, high quality services.

Mike Anderer, Chief Systems Engineer

Mr. Mike Anderer is responsible for capacity-building and administrative operations at Urban Alchemy including but not limited to contract management, technology, system optimization, reporting and data management, and evaluation. Mr. Anderer has 30 years of experience as an educator, community organizer, and nonprofit leader in the East Coast, the Midwest, and the Bay Area. After graduating with a degree in Molecular Biology from Princeton University, Mr. Anderer pursued a career in teaching and education. After a transformative experience while riding his bike across the country after his first year of teaching, he chose to begin living and working in urban schools and communities. In the 90s, Mike co-founded an alternative, tuition-free private school in Camden, New Jersey, and began his life-long journey of learning and understanding the blessings and tragedy of traumatized communities. It was in Chicago, in the 2000s, while co-founding and leading 2 more schools, that Mike lived in the vibrant communities on the South and West sides of Chicago and directly experienced the loss and trauma of violence, addiction, and hopelessness. Mike brought his lived experience to Bay Area in 2012. Prior to joining Urban Alchemy, Mr. Anderer was the Founding President of Cristo Rey De La Salle High School in Oakland and Vice President at De Marillac Academy in the Tenderloin. In addition to a BS in Molecular Biology, Mike has masters’ degrees in educational leadership and theology. He has extensive experience in nonprofit management and community development.

Kirkpatrick Tyler, Chief of Governmental and Community Affairs

Mr. Kirkpatrick Tyler is responsible for leading government and community relations in the cities where Urban Alchemy operates. He is also the senior staff person overseeing Urban Alchemy’s operations in southern California Mr. Tyler has been trained and cultivated to provide the highest levels of service, advocacy, and community engagement. Through his life experience, educational

development and career achievements, Mr. Tyler has emerged a leader within the public service community. With – a diverse background, strong convictions for human rights, personal responsibility, strategic partnership building, talent for critical analysis, and problem-solving abilities – Mr. Tyler is a force to be acknowledged within the national, local and community arenas. He has worked for both nonprofit and government agencies throughout the United States. Before joining Urban Alchemy, Mr. Tyler worked for Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, managing community relations in south Los Angeles, which includes the Skid Row neighborhood and then serving as a policy advisor on homelessness.

Ann Kwon, Chief Human Resources Officer

Ms. Ann Kwon is responsible for implementing and promoting Urban Alchemy’s organizational values by managing human resources operations. Ms. Kwon has over 20 years of experience in human resources, having worked for startup and publicly traded technology companies overseeing US and international human resources, payroll, and stock operations with a focus on project managing system implementations. Ms. Kwon was instrumental in working with company leadership to scale and expand global operations. In addition to working with global corporations, Ms. Kwon also has nonprofit experience as Operations Director and Executive Director for two Oakland-based organizations. Prior to joining Urban Alchemy, Ms. Kwon held a position with a major consulting firm handling and managing project-focused human resources work for technology and nonprofit clients. Ms. Kwon has a bachelor’s degree and is also SHRM-SCP certified.

Jeff Kositsky, Chief Growth Officer

Mr. Jeff Kositsky leads Urban Alchemy’s expansion into cities around the country. This includes establishing new markets, leading fundraising efforts. and assisting with financial management and other administrative functions to facilitate growth. Mr. Kositsky has been leading social service organizations for over twenty years. During this time, he worked on homelessness, affordable housing, economic development, community organizing, and public policy. Mr. Kositsky is proficient in many aspects of organizational management including government relations, nonprofit leadership, finance, strategic planning, human resources, program evaluation, and fundraising. Mr. Kositsky ran a successful $30 million fundraising campaign that dramatically reduced family homelessness in San Francisco public schools. He was the founding director of the City and County of San Francisco’s Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, reporting directly to the mayor. During his tenure, he oversaw the development of thousands of units of shelter, rent subsidies and housing.

Urban Alchemy has over 1,110 employees throughout California and Texas. Urban Alchemy staff receive extensive training and ongoing support to help ensure their success.

Over 91% of Urban Alchemy staff are Black people or people of color, and 96% have been incarcerated and/or experienced homelessness. These shared experiences create a deep bond and a spirit of mutual support that produces thriving employees who do outstanding work. Practitioners bring deep passion and commitment to their work because it is often their communities that are suffering the most. Through their experience and training, Urban Alchemy staff know how to practice kindness and connect with people who are struggling in a way that helps transform trauma into resilience.

Urban Alchemy does not hire sex offenders or those who have been convicted of harming women or children.

Urban Alchemy provides people who were incarcerated with meaningful opportunities to give back to their communities. We offer living-wage jobs with benefits as well as a career path both within and outside of our organization. Many of our Practitioners advance within Urban Alchemy and others are recruited to work at other organizations.

In our experience, the best people to facilitate the kind of healing we envision are those who understand what it means to harm a community. Most Urban Alchemy employees, including leadership, experienced long-term incarceration. Employers aren’t bending over backwards to hire people who were incarcerated, but at Urban Alchemy, their skills are sought-after. Many of our staff have spent 10+ years in a confined environment where their survival depended on the ability to read and relate to people in unpredictable situations. Incarceration taught Urban Alchemy staff instincts you can’t learn in a classroom.

The work that Practitioners do is part of their own healing process. Providing individuals with opportunities to give back to their communities is a powerful way to help people exiting prison to re-enter society. Urban Alchemy’s hiring practices are a win-win for the communities we serve. We create meaningful jobs for formerly incarcerated people while leveraging their unique skills to improve conditions in our neighborhoods.

The ‘alchemy’ that we practice is intentional and Practitioners complete a rigorous training program built around Urban Alchemy’s model of using individual engagements to help transform trauma into resilience.

Every Practitioner who is working with the public and wearing our black and green uniform is required to know and understand our core values of respect, integrity, empathy, empowerment, self-discipline, self-control, and self-esteem.

Practitioners’ training begins with classroom instruction in the areas of emotional intelligence, trauma informed care, motivational interviewing, effective communication, de-escalation, advanced de-escalation, harm reduction, self-care and wellness, safety, CPR, first aid, and use of naloxone. Practitioners are also trained on Urban Alchemy’s policies and procedures, including an understanding of how to connect people to social services. Practitioners then receive 40 hours of on-the-job training where they are monitored, guided, and provided feedback in real time.

During this training and throughout their employment, Practitioners are reminded that they are employed to bring peace to struggling communities, not add to anyone’s trauma. Urban Alchemy knows that the only way to transform people and places is with respect, compassion, and love.

Currently, Urban Alchemy provides services in Austin, TX, Los Angeles, CA, Oakland, CA and San Francisco, CA. We are exploring expansion opportunities in these cities and looking to serve new communities around the country.

Urban Alchemy Practitioners engage with everyone in a community and make deposits into an “emotional bank account” by building trust with housed and unhoused individuals. When a problem or a crisis occurs, Practitioners can make a withdrawal from their account to help de- escalate a situation, redirect folks toward more positive behavior, and/or connect them to services. We’re able to do this because we share a special bond with society’s most vulnerable – and because we see ourselves in their struggle. We know what it means to be dismissed and disrespected. We recognize the humanity in those who are struggling, and we treat them how we once wished others had treated us.

One of Urban Alchemy’s many functions is to provide complementary strategies to conventional policing and security. Urban Alchemy does not enforce laws, force people to move, or take responsibility for protecting property. We develop relationships with people and encourage them to treat their neighborhood with respect. We listen to people and promote behavior that protects the health and safety of our public spaces. For example, we might ask people to stay clear of active doorways, to use a public restroom rather than the sidewalks, or to not openly use drugs. We believe that engaging in conversations and encouraging folks to care about their neighborhood is a much more effective approach than enforcing laws, forcing people to move, or fining them if they do not comply.

Urban Alchemy offers solutions including community engagement and outreach, interim housing, hygiene services and street cleaning. Anytime we offer these services, we always ensure that the scope of work with the employer aligns with our mission, morals and values.

At times we do offer these outreach services in conjunction with Encampment-to-Home interventions performed by municipalities, as do many nonprofits. We are doing so currently (April 2022), for example, in the Venice neighborhood of Los Angeles for the Boardwalk and Westchester Park encampments. We also did so for the Echo Park Lake encampment intervention in March 2020, located in East Los Angeles.

How does moving people in Encampment-to-Home align with UA’s values?

Anytime we sit down with a city government to discuss an outreach scope of work, one of the primary things that we ask for is a long enough timeframe to the engagement so it is not based on simply moving people, and that it gives us the time to evaluate what resources need to be brought to that area to be responsible to the people who are there. We want to know the short- and long-term housing strategy when our teams are there. We are not interested in shuffling people around. We also understand that the people we serve are human beings with their own agency and autonomy, and that they may choose not to use the available temporary shelter or may ultimately decide to exit that shelter if it doesn’t meet their needs. We only provide services in support of Encampment-to-Home interventions if the scope of work aligns with the approach articulated here.

Isn’t a “Housing First” policy better than the temporary shelter that the campers are moving to?

Housing First is a righteous policy. Housing should be available for everyone. But a “Housing First” viewpoint that demands a one-bedroom apartment with full-kitchen, closet space, washer & dryer unit, and outside parking be made available to every person, and until such time only the streets are good enough, isn’t realistic or humane. First, there is a well-known housing shortage. Secondly, people need services in addition to the housing; just putting people into a house is not a viable solution.

Temporary shelters, with access to services, can be an important intermediary step toward housing. Not everyone will use the temporary shelters or services, but that doesn’t discount the efficacy of this approach as part of a comprehensive policy to help the unhoused.

A few points on temporary shelter vs. encampments:

Encampment conditions

Our first-hand experience from witnessing encampments and from the testimony of our employees many who have lived experience of homelessness, is that these encampments can be very dangerous for the inhabitants — with violence, trafficking, theft, vandalism and drug use. We share a special bond with society’s most vulnerable because we see ourselves in their struggle. We know what it means to be dismissed and disrespected. We recognize the humanity in those who are struggling, and we treat them how we once wished others had treated us.

New models

A new model and approach to temporary shelter is actually one of the greatest opportunities to help the unhoused, and we work closely in these models by operating Safe Sleep villages, Tiny / Container Homes villages and Semi-congregate shelters.

A 2020 SF Coalition on Homeless report found that, “most of those residing in public space are not in fact “service resistant” or “shelter resistant,” since most have utilized services and shelters in the past, and most often, multiple times through multiple points of entry. Instead, our study found that many barriers to shelter were not of homeless people’s own choosing, but rather structural barriers to access, a fragmented system, inadequate shelter conditions, and high rates of unstable and unwanted exits.”(p.30) (Stop the Revolving Door)


Assuming the only path out of homelessness is ongoing housing subsidies is not supported by the facts.

Most homeless people self-resolve without government assistance and many are able to exit homelessness with one-time support such as a security deposit for family.  About 30% of the homeless population is chronically homeless and need long-term housing assistance.

For example, an estimated 82,955 people in Los Angeles fell into homelessness during 2019, and an estimated 52,686 people “self-resolved” out of homelessness and approximately 25% were chronically homeless. (source: LAHSA)

I’ve read criticism of the EPL intervention and how ineffective it was. How do you respond?

Some recent academic reports questioned the efficacy intervention at EPL in Los Angeles and were also critical of the outreach and ancillary support to the unhoused provided by nonprofits, including Urban Alchemy. We’ve addressed some the general critique of interventions above, and have outlined below the basic facts of EPL from our perspective:

# The daily homeless count at EPL ranged consistently between 68-72 persons for the three months preceding the intervention in March 2020. Our outreach consisted of picking up trash at the encampment, giving out free food and water, and advising individuals on the temporary housing options available. Our experience was that the overwhelming majority of people at EPL were interested in moving to temporary shelter.

# The report from our UA Practitioners was that the living conditions at EPL were dire. The encampment in our view posed a danger to the campers and the surrounding neighborhoods, and we took at services-first approach to addressing them.

# The homeless count at EPL climbed to roughly 200 persons as the intervention began and individuals were exiting the encampment for temporary shelter and SIP hotels. Our Practitioners reported to us that the number of inhabitants increased during the intervention as word spread city-wide among the unhoused that those domicile at EPL got a chance for temporary shelter.

# We did not witness or hear about the police forcibly moving or putting their hands on any of the unhoused. We don’t say that to cover for or defend the police. If we saw it or heard about it, we would report it. We would also not continue to engage at an Encampment-to-Home intervention if anything like that was taking place. The police stood back, and the unhoused exited the park on their own. That was what we saw.

# There was, however, significant interaction, and at times physical, between the police and the protestors, activists, and journalists.

# All unhoused from EPL were placed in temporary shelter with access to services. The city reports that of the 183 people from Echo Park, 178 were sheltered and five referred to interim housing but never finished the intake process. Out of the 178 people who were sheltered, 110 have exited initial placements with 10% to temporary housing and 9 persons to permanent housing.

We hope this is a helpful overview of our approach to Encampment-to-Home engagements.

Please know that Urban Alchemy is on the streets 24/7 checking on individuals living in encampments, providing food and water, providing clean and safe toilets, showers, safety, lifesaving first aid/CPR and Narcan, and providing safe and clean-living spaces.  Every day we are accountable to record every flush, every shower, every overnight guest, every engagement, every OD reversal, and every bag of trash collected.  We are in front of the public everyday – cleaning streets, operating shelters, providing non-violent community-based alternatives to policing, and all of that work is tracked and documented.

We are proud that 92% of our staff are Black people or people of color, and 96% have been incarcerated and/or experienced homelessness. At Urban Alchemy, we do the work. We don’t sit on the sidelines.

Urban Alchemy is undergoing dramatic growth. Our budget increased by over 500% in under two years as governments, universities, businesses, and community organizations ask us to help calm chaotic places. We are proud of our success and cannot turn away from the increasing demand for what we do. Urban Alchemy is compelled to respond to the overwhelming need in our neighborhoods by replicating our successfully formula in as many communities as possible.

We plan to deepen Urban Alchemy’s presence in the cities we already serve and add at least 3 new urban areas to our portfolio by June 2025. Our goal is to increase our contract revenue to over $100 million by 2025, creating at least 1,500 new, good-paying jobs with benefits for formerly incarcerated individuals motivated to give back to their communities.

We are not planning this expansion simply for sake of getting bigger. Urban Alchemy’s services and the jobs we create are in high demand. Responsible growth will mean transformative assistance for even more people and places struggling with the intersection of extreme poverty, mental health, addiction, and homelessness.

We are not planning this expansion simply for sake of getting bigger. Urban Alchemy’s services and the jobs we create are in high demand. Responsible growth will mean transformative assistance for even more people and places struggling with the intersection of extreme poverty, mental health, addiction, and homelessness.

Urban Alchemy is a fast-growing start-up, and this is a very exciting time for the organization. However, we have seen what reckless expansion can do and are committed to growing responsibly. We recognize there are many things we should, could, and will do better as Urban Alchemy matures, but we’re getting better and stronger every week. Urban Alchemy worked with a variety of consultants on developing a growth plan that includes a process for vetting new opportunities. This is serving as our road map for intentional, responsible growth.

Currently, our greatest challenge is the need to strengthen Urban Alchemy’s “back office” functions. We need to build our financial analysis, data collection, and contract management capacities. We also need to continue refining our human resources management and staff training. We are especially focused on expanding the educational and career opportunities for our employees. These investments will help us maintain and improve the quality of our services as we grow.

Urban Alchemy’s other big challenge is cash. If we were a tech start-up, we would probably be seeking Series B or C funding to meet our infrastructure needs and achieve our expansion goals. However, as a nonprofit social enterprise, we are looking for foundations, corporations, and individuals to make philanthropic investments in our transformative model. Urban Alchemy is being strategic and intentional regarding our expansion as we work to secure new investments.


You can get in touch by emailing us through our website or by calling us at (415) 757-0896. Please let us know the nature of your inquiry so we can connect you to the right person.

On a case-by-case basis, we may be able to accommodate a walkthrough to help you get a better understanding of the challenges faced by our communities and the work our Practitioners undertake every day. Please go to the contact us page on our website and select media under inquiry type. You can also visit our media page for more information.


In the News

May 22, 2022
S.F. looks to calm its streets with Urban Alchemy, a nonprofit that hires the formerly incarcerated. How is it going?
April 29, 2022
Exclusive: Urban Alchemy on security, racism and scrutiny
April 25, 2022
April 19, 2022
‘An unmet need’: Nonprofits land funding to help Austin’s homeless people of color
April 12, 2022
‘We’re always at work in the hardest, you know, in the depths of the cities. In the underpasses, the alleyways.’
March 10, 2022
San Francisco opened a Bayview parking site for homeless people living in RVs. This is how it’s going
March 7, 2022
Woman starts tiny home company to help fight homelessness
San Francisco’s first tiny home village for homeless people opens. At $15,000 a pop, city says it’s cost-effective
March 4, 2022
Community works to clean up SF Tenderloin to protect kids amidst onslaught of crime, homelessness
March 1, 2022
FINDINGS A cold night counting San Francisco’s homeless
February 9, 2022
EXCLUSIVE: First look inside SF youth hostel turned homeless shelter
February 8, 2022
After delay, S.F. approves 250-person homeless shelter near the Tenderloin amid local emergency
January 30, 2022
Is the Tenderloin ‘healing’? This is what it’s like to live and work under an emergency declaration
December 30, 2021
Mayor Breed poured millions into Tenderloin community ambassadors and police months before crackdown. Has it helped?
December 17, 2021
Why the San Francisco Mayor Just Pivoted on Policing
December 15, 2021
Behind London Breed’s stunning ‘defund the police’ turnaround in San Francisco
November 29, 2021
LA poised to launch unarmed crisis response pilot in Venice, Hollywood
November 23, 2021
LA Will Pilot Not Using Police In Non-Emergency Calls Involving Unhoused People
City of LA launches CIRCLE program to divert 911 calls about homelessness
October 19, 2021
Crew Cleaning Trash Buildup From Homeless at Skid Row May Expand Citywide
October 5, 2021
Exploratorium, San Francisco Recreation and Parks Announce New Public Space Exhibition in Golden Gate Park
Unhoused People Need Bathrooms. It’s Time To Get Serious About Solutions.
September 23, 2021
Community works to clean up SF Tenderloin to protect kids amidst onslaught of crime, homelessness
August 30, 2021
Urban Alchemy says its street services work and the ‘special sauce is relationships
August 29, 2021
American nightmare: the homelessness crisis in San Francisco
August 10, 2021
The Tenderloin is Recovering
July 15, 2021
Homeless houses a springboard to start over
May 22, 2021
Column: The people who clean skid row find needles, rats, the occasional corpse — and deep gratitude
February 7, 2021
A cold night counting San Francisco’s homeless
January 20, 2021
Coastside Conversations-Lena Miller