Mike Koozmin/The S.F. ExaminerExecutive Director Mary Howe

Haight center for homeless youth explores options as closure looms

Monday for the Homeless Youth Alliance drop-in center was business as usual, apart from a film crew making a fundraising video about the clean needle exchange, psychiatry and other services provided to youngsters. But come next week, the center could be no more.

For a dozen years, the organization paid no more than $3,100 a month in rent for a 2,100-square-foot space at 1696 Haight St., despite offering to pay more, said Executive Director Mary Howe. But six weeks ago, she received a lease termination notice to vacate by Jan. 1, meaning the nonprofit will need to shut its doors Dec. 25.

“I’m banking on a Christmas miracle,” she said. “If that doesn’t happen, then we’re less than two weeks away from going mobile.”

To continue providing services daily for up to 150 youths — nearly half of whom identify as LGBT — Howe has explored purchasing a small van or a vehicle similar to a food truck. Parking would be a struggle and overall the change would not be ideal, but it’s more realistic than finding $3 million to buy a building in the neighborhood.

The property owner, who was a founder of the Haight Ashbury Free Clinics, realizes the importance of the center’s work, but wants to “take the building in a different direction,” said property manager Paul Gaetani. In addition, the building must be vacated for seismic work.

“We’ve already given one extension and there will be no more extensions,” Gaetani said.

Bevan Dufty, the point man on homelessness for Mayor Ed Lee, said the Mayor’s Office has secured a pro-bono Realtor who gave a cost estimate and drawing of a potential space in the neighborhood. That option fell through, but they have continued to work together in the past month.

“We didn’t just come to them when the fire alarm got pulled,” Dufty said. “We’ve been working very closely with them to help them find more housing or transitional housing for youth in the Haight-Ashbury.”

The 2013 San Francisco Homeless Count and Survey found that there were 914 unaccompanied 18- to 24-year-olds living here.

The organization has received both praise and criticism from neighbors and merchants for being a haven for homeless youths.

Michael Xavier, president of the Haight-Ashbury Street Fair, said the organization losing its storefront means services will be more visible on the street level and possibly lead to more vocal activism. That’s important, he said, because every six months or so a new wave of people settles in the neighborhood.

The nonprofit is not alone in providing social services in the neighborhood, but it’s unique for the youths who seek help there.

“What’s such an ace is most of these people are recovering addicts, and the way that kids on the street view them as peers rather than the government that’s offering you service with a carrot and a stick kind of situation,” Xavier said. “It’s a harm-reduction method when they’re just offering carrots and no stick.”

As for the video, it is being produced for a Fundly.com fundraiser that will launch sometime this week.

Just Posted

City puts closure of long-term mental health beds on hold

In response to public outrage over a proposal to suspend 41 permanent… Continue reading

Here we go again – new dog rules in Golden Gate National Recreation Area

The GGNRA released a 2019 Superintendent’s Compendium that makes significant changes that appear to implement parts of the ill-fated Dog Management Plan.

Thousands take to San Francisco streets in Climate Strike

The protesters are calling for urgent action on climate change, including putting pressure on local elected leaders to support more drastic steps.

Good Day Sept. 22-24, 2019

Mark Morris Dance Group, Presidio Theatre Open House, PUSHFest, Community Music Center Sunday, Making Faces-Portraits by John Kascht, WWE Monday Night Raw, Margaret Atwood, George Takei, Durand Jones, Kurt Ribak, Incubus

Power outage impacts Muni subway service

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency said Friday morning that a power… Continue reading

Most Read