Haight-Ashbury center serving homeless youths still set to close on Christmas 

click to enlarge Mary Howe | John Bozeman
  • Mike Koozmin/The S.F. Examiner
  • Homeless Youth Alliance executive director Mary Howe, a formerly homeless youth, and youth alliance participant John Bozeman, holding a sign he uses to panhandle, in the drop-in room of the center's Haight Street location.

As it has on many Christmases, the Homeless Youth Alliance in the Haight-Ashbury today will serve more than 150 meals of turkey, ham, potatoes, stuffing, green beans and other foods. But come 7 p.m., its doors will shut for good after 12 years of helping youngsters in need.

Despite fundraising efforts and a petition that has gathered more than 5,000 signatures, the organization has been denied a stay extension from the landlord of 1696 Haight St. and has not come up with $3 million to purchase a new building in the neighborhood.

"The angel investor has not come along and saved us with the Christmas miracle, so we're hoping they're waiting until tomorrow [Wednesday]," the organization's executive director, Mary Howe, said Tuesday. "It can happen."

The petition that was started by a supporter a little over a week did help bring awareness and put pressure on City Hall to "take a look at the situation in the Haight-Ashbury and acknowledge that these kids are not going to leave and that the services are needed," Howe said. About 49 percent of youth recipients identify as LGBT.

Barring a Christmas miracle, the organization will pack its items into storage and continue to provide its services - psychiatric, medical and the needle exchange, among others - in the same neighborhood at Golden Gate Park. Plans for a mobile service are moving along, but not finalized.

"It's been a really emotional week," Howe said. "It's been a lot of anger and a lot of sadness, and also a lot of gratitude."

About The Author

Jessica Kwong

Jessica Kwong

Jessica Kwong covers transportation, housing, and ethnic communities, among other topics, for the San Francisco Examiner. She covered City Hall as a fellow for the San Francisco Chronicle, night cops and courts for the San Antonio Express-News, general news for Spanish-language newspapers La Opinión and El Mensajero,... more
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