We got word yesterday that HYA at Haight & Cole will not have their lease renewed for 2014. Their last day in their current space will be Christmas.
If you don’t know what HYA does, back in May we spent an afternoon chatting with Mary Howe, the founder and Executive Director, about HYA’s contribution to the homeless youth and the greater neighborhood. On an average day, they were serving 50-150 kids, and in the past two years, the number of kids using their mental health services rose by 40%.
Well, after twelve years in their current space (five of them officially as HYA – before that they were Haight Ashbury Youth Outreach Team), their landlord has decided not to renew their lease. The building will be renovated and reopened with apartments on the upper floor, and a retail or restaurant space on the ground floor. The owners said that HYA had been “ideal tenants” over the years they’d been there, but that with current market rates being so high, they had no choice but to change directions. They didn’t give HYA an opportunity to negotiate a higher rent.
And they’re not alone:
Sadly, our situation is not an anomaly. In the past couple years, many of the city’s nonprofits have been displaced by huge rent increases or early lease terminations. But HYA is nothing if not resilient. Our history has made us, out of necessity, creative and resourceful in the face of challenges.
Currently, they’re in a financially stable position and looking for a new space, preferably in the Haight. In the meantime, they’ll be providing services on a “mobile outreach basis”:
HYA originally began as a grassroots, outreach-only program: on the front lines, reaching homeless youth in Golden Gate Park, on the streets, and wherever they could be found, building strong, ongoing relationships based on support, respect, and practical assistance. As a mobile outreach unit, we can still provide food, hygiene kits and safer sex supplies, harm reduction trainings, one-on-one counseling and case management, and therapy and psychiatric care—either out in the open, or by making use of tents, a van, or a trailer. We can still connect kids with housing, benefits, medical care, drug treatment, and other life-saving resources. We can still visit and advocate for them in the hospital or if they’re incarcerated. We can still mediate between kids and their families and lend moral support and counsel in crises and emergencies. We can still give kids the tools, education, and incentive to make healthier choices, keep themselves safe, and ultimately get off the streets.
Although this situation poses initial challenges, we choose to view it as an opportunity. An intensified focus on street-level work will enable us to reach more of the hardest-to-engage homeless kids, those in remote areas of the Park, who wouldn’t otherwise come in contact with our team or make their way to our space. It will tilt the balance toward “on-demand” services—therapy and case management that can be provided wherever the youth are, making services even more accessible to kids who have difficulty with structure or continuity. And ultimately, it will bring HYA closer to our long-term dream and goal, the cornerstone of our existing strategic plan: a better building with kitchen facilities, showers, laundry, a full medical clinic, and enough office and storage space to accommodate larger Outreach and Mental Health Teams.
In addition to the official statement sent to their donors (from which we pulled the above quotes), Mary wanted to add that just because homeless youth services are (maybe) leaving the neighborhood doesn’t mean that the homeless youth will leave. “They have always been here and probably always will. But their quality of life as they will be unable to get their basic needs met will greatly decrease and that is the real shame here.”
If you want to help them out, you can donate to them through their website.