The administrative offices of Huckleberry Youth Programs at 3310 Geary Boulevard were damaged in a three-alarm fire on Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019. (Victor Tence/Special to the S.F. Examiner)

Nonprofit serving Bay Area youth hit hard by Inner Richmond explosion, fire

A gas explosion and three-alarm fire that damaged four buildings in the Inner Richmond neighborhood Wednesday has left a decades-old nonprofit serving Bay Area youth scrambling to assess the damage and regroup.

The building at 3310 Geary Boulevard that houses Huckleberry Youth Programs administrative offices and Wellness Academy is among those that have been yellow-tagged following the fire due to extensive water and smoke damage, according to fire and building officials.

Huckleberry Youth Program has been offering services to youth in the Bay Area for 50 years and operated the first runaway shelter in the nation. They serve roughly 7,000 young adults annually, offering mental health care, a health clinic, college and high school preparation along with support for youth in danger of being trafficked and a juvenile justice program.

All staff members made it out safely during the fire, but the nonprofit is now assessing damage to the building and its programs.

Making sure that students have access to their support network and resources is the primary concern right now, explains Douglas Styles, executive director for Huckleberry Youth.

The 25 students enrolled in the Wellness Academy, which provides first-generation college students with support, will need to be redistributed to one of the four other sites Huckleberry operates in the City.

But that may be easier said than done. The 3310 Geary site was the nonprofit’s primary storage site for records and documentation, many of which were stored in their basement and have now been destroyed by 2 inches of water flooding in from the firefighter’s hoses.

The nonprofit is also facing disruption to its main source of revenue, since fundraising and financial support staff were housed in the same space. This is especially difficult for an organization that relies on reimbursements and donations as its main source of revenue.

“We don’t have a huge stockpile of cash to dip into,” said Styles. “It’s going to be pretty tight for a while.”

This disruption comes in the middle of preparations for an annual gala fundraiser to be held April 11 at the Four Seasons, celebrating 51 years of service to the community.

Organizations such as the Edgewood Center for Children and the San Francisco Human Services Agency have already reached out to offer temporary spaces and donations. Any member of the community who wishes to donate can do so at the Huckleberry Youth Program website.

“We want to make sure that our students don’t fall back and keep moving forward, but we are still in shock and still assessing next steps,” said Styles.

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