No matter where you stand on the issue of gentrification, it is undeniable that San Francisco has changed dramatically over the last 20 years. Due to a series of factors, including two tech booms, an influx of new residents with rising incomes, and policy changes, the cost of living has skyrocketed. This has made it increasingly difficult for lower-income residents to get by. Here is a snapshot of a few of the ways that the cost of living has increased in San Francisco since 1998 (not adjusted for inflation):
Median rent for a two-bedroom apartment in San Francisco
- 1998: $2,000 
- 2018: $4,000 
Price of a Muni Ticket 
- 1998: $0.35 (youth), $0.70 (adult)
- 2018: $1.35 (youth), $2.75 (adult)
Price of ¼ lb Cheeseburger at McDonald’s
- 1998: $1.95 
- 2018: $5.79 
At The Crossroads invited two peer providers, Mary Howe and Maurice Byrd, to discuss their experiences in a changing San Francisco and how they’ve seen their work with homeless youth change as a result of gentrification.
Mary Howe is the founding Executive Director of the Homeless Youth Alliance (HYA), which supports youth on the streets of Haight Ashbury and Golden Gate Park. Like At The Crossroads, HYA aims to meet youth experiencing homelessness where they are, and to help them build healthier lives. HYA uses a harm reduction approach, which consists of non-judgmental outreach, one-on-one counseling, and medical and mental health care, as well as creative and educational workshops, syringe access and disposal, and referrals and information.
Maurice Byrd is a licensed marriage and family therapist with the Center for Harm Reduction Therapy in San Francisco and Oakland. Maurice partners with many organizations, and works as a therapist for clients of Homeless Youth Alliance. For the last seven years, he has also worked closely with counselors at At The Crossroads to provide training and support. Maurice is a published author, and his most recent work can be found in Decarcerating America, From Mass Punishment to Public Health, which advocates for the use of a harm reduction approach to ending mass incarceration.
From 2001 to 2013, HYA operated a drop-in center on Haight Street which was renowned for the sense of acceptance, safety, and belonging that they were able to provide to youth who entered the building. For Mary, HYA’s drop-in was a place where homeless youth could “come in exactly as they are” and access a range of services, all while experiencing safe haven from the street. Anywhere from 45 to 150 youth would visit HYA’s drop-in on any given day, and from their home base, they helped youth transition permanently off the streets. Some of their participants have been hired as staff members, others have gone on to college, launched their own careers, or started families of their own.
Mary and Maurice describe the drop-in center that HYA ran on Haight Street.