Urban Alchemy

Tax ID:


Tax-Exempt Status:




San Francisco, CA





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Urban Alchemy (UA), a left-of center nonprofit, was founded in 2018 as a workforce development agency that hires former convicts while also trying to address the effects of homelessness in urban areas and unkept public spaces. The organization takes part in a variety of city or state-led programs by providing representatives to staff public areas, such as public bathrooms and BART elevators, in an effort to deter crime and maintain clean facilities.


Founded in 2018, Urban Alchemy is based in San Francisco, CA, and claims to be a workforce development agency 1 that hires former convicts and also aims to rebuild urban areas by supporting those struggling with homelessness, addiction, and mental illness. 2 Urban Alchemy grew out of a program called Hunter’s Point, an organization started by UA’s current CEO, Lena Miller 3 that was founded in 1997 to support the African American community in San Francisco’s Bayview Hunter Point. 4


Pit Stop

UA employees, called “practitioners,” 5 collaborate with the San Francisco Department of Public Works to facilitate the Pit Stop program by staffing and monitoring public bathrooms at more than 20 locations throughout the city to try and reduce the need to clean up human waste and deter crime in public areas. 6

In addition to public bathrooms, the program also provides sinks, used needle receptacles, and dog waste stations. Depending on the site, the program uses semi-permanent bathrooms as well as portable bathrooms that receive regular servicing. The program is expanding to other cities including Miami and Sacramento. 7

The Pit Stop program also inspired a similar public facility monitoring program in public parks called the Park Stop program in which public bathrooms at seven San Francisco parks are staffed by attendants to deter crimes like vandalism and also maintain clean facilities. 8 Contracted by Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), UA also facilitates the BART Elevator Practitioners Program by providing attendants at elevators in BART stations in an attempt to keep the elevators clean and safe for BART patrons. 9

Safe Sleeping

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent social-distancing measures, the city of San Francisco began a Safe Sleeping program by establishing camping plots in urban areas for homeless individuals to camp and observe social-distancing measures while receiving basic hygiene as well as three meals a day. Some of the sites are run by UA representatives in addition to other left-of-center nonprofits including Dolores Street Community Services and Larkin Street Youth Services. As of June 2021, San Francisco has six “safe-sleeping villages” that are criticized for their high price tag as program costs exceed $18 million for about 260 tents. 10

UA also runs the San Francisco Clean and Los Angeles Clean programs that clean up trash and food waste as well as report bio-waste and clean graffiti. 11

UA employs a model called Public Space Activation. Based on “proactive public safety rather than passive security guards,” the model advocates focusing on engaging and connecting with those in the community rather than solely enforcing the rules while serving as attendants across various public spaces. 12

As of August 2021, Urban Alchemy claims to have provided over 12,000 showers, served 13 cities, successfully reversed 95 overdoses across its programs, 13 and picked up over 1,100 tons of trash through a variety of programs. 14


The organization’s tax returns for 2019 reported over $10.1 million in total revenue and over $9.1 million in total expenses which is a significant increase in revenue compared to 2018 when it only reported about $35,000 in total revenue and about $3,000 in total expenses. The organization’s reported revenue spike in 2019 is largely due to receiving over $8.3 million in government grants. 15


Lena Miller is the founder and CEO of Urban Alchemy. 16 Miller is the founder of Hunters Point, a nonprofit created in 1997 to support the African American community in Hunters Point, a neighborhood in San Francisco, and is also the founder of GIRLS 2000, a leadership program for neighborhood girls. 17


  1. Urban Alchemy. Accessed August 8, 2021.
  2. “About Us.” Urban Alchemy. Accessed August 8, 2021.
  3. Ramos, John. “San Francisco Nonprofit Hires Ex-Convicts To Clean Up City’s Streets, Image.” CBS San Francisco. CBS San Francisco, June 23, 2019.
  4. Hunters Point Family. Accessed July 13, 2021.
  5. “Our People.” Urban Alchemy. Accessed August 11, 2021.
  6. “Urban Alchemy.” Housing Innovation Collaborative, April 12, 2020.
  7. “PRESS RELEASE: San Francisco Expands Successful Pit Stop Public Toilet Program – 6/15/16.” San Francisco Public Works, June 15, 2016.
  8. Falstreau, Nathan. Rec & Park to introduce ‘Park Stop’ restroom attendant program at 7 city parks, January 25, 2019.
  9. Jordan, Melissa. “Successful Elevator Attendant Program Expands to Two More Stations.” Bay Area Rapid Transit, November 6, 2019.
  10. Thadani, Trisha. “S.F. Spends More than $60k Per Tent at Homeless Sites. Now It’s Being Asked for Another $15 Million for the Program.” San Francisco Chronicle. San Francisco Chronicle, June 23, 2021.
  11. “Projects.” Urban Alchemy. Accessed August 11, 2021.
  12. “Projects.” Urban Alchemy. Accessed August 11, 2021.
  13. “Impact.” Urban Alchemy. Accessed August 11, 2021.
  14. “Projects.” Urban Alchemy. Accessed August 11, 2021.
  15. Urban Alchemy, Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990), 2019, Part VIII Line 1e
  16. “Urban Alchemy.” REDFworkshop. Accessed July 13, 2021.
  17. “Our History.” Hunters Point Family. Accessed July 13, 2021.
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: June - May
  • Tax Exemption Received: August 1, 2019

  • Available Filings

    Additional Filings (PDFs)