Our History: Expanded

Recognizing a need

In the summer of 1970, the International Center for Integrative Studies (ICIS) brought together a task force of young professionals to evaluate the numerous issues affecting America’s urban adolescent population. Drug abuse, crime, rising teen pregnancy rates and incidences of sexually transmitted diseases, in addition to high rates of school dropout and unemployment, were among the most serious social problems facing young people. They knew that an entirely new approach was needed to untangle the barriers preventing youth from succeeding.

Developing an answer

The Door was created as a model to demonstrate the effectiveness of providing comprehensive, integrated services. The original team was made up of young professionals in the fields of medicine, psychiatry, law, education, social work and the arts, developing connections among existing service systems. At the start, there was no money, no space, no equipment or staff. Only a group of deeply concerned volunteers who recognize the crisis of inner-city youth and were determined to provide solutions.

The early years

The project took a giant step forward when a program in Greenwich Village offered free storefront space to The Door. More than 50 volunteers undertook the renovation of the space on East 12th Street, even building exam rooms, a medical lab, and pharmacy. In January of 1972, though lacking funding, The Door opened with a staff comprised solely of volunteers. Free services addressed the totality of a young person’s needs and strengths. After three years of experience, and with substantial financial support from the Ford Foundation, The Door moved to its first permanent home on Sixth Avenue and 18th Street in 1975.

The big move

The Door moved to its present location in 1989, where it occupies five floors filled with comprehensive services. Around The Doo’rs 20th anniversary, programming expanded to include on-site legal services and advanced education programs such as GED courses and college counseling.

Beyond physical expansion, The Door received recognition in the city and throughout the nation. In the 1990s, the World Economic Forum recognized The Door as one of six premier models for successful youth service delivery, and the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services chose The Door as a model program dealing with the pressing needs of children and families in impoverished communities. Young advocates traveled to Washington D.C. to stand up for youth rights, and The Door began partnerships with nationally recognized organizations including Gap Inc. and the Center for Disease Control. The Door then became a part of a groundbreaking relationship in 2000 when it assumed affiliate status to University Settlement, a long-established New York City organization and the first settlement house in the United States.

Expanding beyond SoHo

The Door continues to adapt to the changing landscape of New York City and the needs of its young people, with Manhattan’s designated drop-in center for a rapidly growing population of runaway and homeless youth and innovative solutions in men’s health. In 2010 The Door, in partnership with Common Ground, opened a supportive housing facility in the Lower East Side. A second facility is underway in the East Village, expanding The Door’s reach well beyond SoHo. 2011 marked the inaugural year of Broome Street Academy, the public charter high school housed in and run in partnership with The Door.

After 40 years, The Door continues to draw hundreds of New York City youth daily, and over 11,000 annually. These young people know that they can come here in crisis, and that they can count on continuing care, support, and encouragement. As an authentic model of constructive human relationships, The Door has won the loyalty and trust of many thousands of young people.