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The faces of San Francisco’s homeless youth

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San Francisco Homeless Youth
"Amber" is one of thousands of youth assisted each year by the Homeless Youth Alliance. The Alliance is closing their Haight Street location effective Christmas Day. (Lisette Poole / SFBay)

San Francisco’s Homeless Youth Alliance is set to shut its Haight Street doors on Christmas Day.

The center, which opened more than 12 years ago and helps approximately 5,000 youth annually, will not be able to renew the lease on their Haight Street location as of January 1, 2014.

The alliance, founded by Executive Director, Mary Howe, focuses on harm reduction in a neighborhood where many homeless teens live without other medical or social services.

Howe says that their lease was terminated without the option to renew, and their offer to pay increased rent was declined.

In the new year, the center will turn into a mobile unit. Howe says:

“We’re not abandoning our clients.”

The alliance, which services between 50-150 youth per day, will set up in nearby Golden Gate Park to provide therapy, psychiatry, plus medical and other services.

The alliance’s needle exchange program will be held out of a van until a new center is found. This change will be costly for the non-profit and any donations will be gladly accepted on their website or by mail.

In the spring of 2012, HYA organized a “Project Run-Away” fundraiser event and fashion show, in which youth designed clothing for competition, “to show their creative side,” says Howe.

These portraits, inspired by the Project Run-Away concept, highlight the teens’ unique sense of style. The full names and backgrounds of these youth remain undisclosed to not compromise their privacy.

These are the faces of only a few of the thousands of youth helped each year by the Homeless Youth Alliance’s services.

If you would like to help you may donate to Homeless Youth Alliance on their website.


Lisette Poole is a Brooklyn-based photographer born in San Francisco and an alumna of San Francisco State University.

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