After 17 years at the helm of the Downtown Streets Team, CEO Eileen Richardson will retire, according to the nonprofit organization.
An interim CEO will be named while the board of directors and senior management begin the search for her replacement, the organization said in a June 24 statement.
Richardson, formerly a venture capitalist and CEO of the music streaming service Napster, launched the nonprofit in 2005 in partnership with the Downtown Association of Palo Alto. The organization aimed to address the crisis of homelessness in Palo Alto, starting out with a budget of less than $40,000 and four homeless team members. The organization gives jobs to people who clean city streets and helps them achieve self-sufficiency through personalized case management, employment services and a voucher program for basic necessities such as food and housing.
The nonprofit has expanded its Downtown Streets teams, known for their bright yellow T-shirts, into 16 communities across northern and central California. It serves more than 400 unhoused persons annually and now has more than 100 staff members and an annual budget of $14 million, the organization said. Under Richardson's leadership, the Streets Team has helped employ or house more than 4,000 team members experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity, the organization said.
Richardson has received many accolades for her work, including being named a tech world visionary by The New York Times. She was nominated for Visionary of the Year by the San Francisco Chronicle and received the James Irvine Foundation's Leadership Award and CalTravel's Advocate for the Homeless Award, the organization noted.
In 2014, Richardson and the Downtown Streets Team also took over running the then-struggling Palo Alto Food Closet, which provides groceries to in-need clients.
"I think I can say that I've changed some lives for the better in my time here, but my greatest joy is having had the opportunity to empower the staff at DST to help transform so many more," Richardson said in a statement to staff.
In recent years, Richardson was also at the heart of controversy. In January 2020, she and other members of the executive team were accused of sexual harassment and creating a hostile working environment and drinking culture by multiple former employees.
The nonprofit also settled a wage-theft lawsuit last August after allegedly failing to pay 72 employees for uncompensated overtime and failure to allow meal and rest breaks. The allegations claimed millions of dollars in losses.