Huckleberry House’s Executive Director Looks Back and Looks Ahead
By Doug Styles, Executive Director, Huckleberry House

I am humbled in my position as Executive Director of Huckleberry Youth Programs, as our agency turns 50 this year. Born out of the Summer of Love and established in the Haight, Huckleberry House opened its doors on June 18, 1967 as the first shelter for runaway youth in the United States. In the first year alone, Huckleberry House provided refuge and safety to over 650 youth, and over the last 50 years Huckleberry Youth Programs has educated, inspired and supported nearly 200,000 youth and their families. During our last fiscal year, Huckleberry served as a critical resource to over 7,000 youth in San Francisco and Marin through our shelter, health clinics, health education workshops, counseling, juvenile justice diversion, and academic achievement programs. As a result of the hard work of the pioneers who founded the agency, and our passionate staff who bring our mission to life on a daily basis, Huckleberry has repeatedly been recognized locally and nationally as a model of change.

As impressive as these numbers and achievements are, they pale in comparison to the real impact that Huckleberry Youth Programs has on the youth and families that walk through our doors everyday.  Before Huckleberry and before the Summer of Love, many youth behaviors were criminalized and, if caught, resulted in incarceration. In response to these injustices, Huckleberry collaborated with Glide, SF Foundation, the Black Panthers, the Diggers, and the Haight Ashbury Free Clinic to challenge the norms about how youth are treated, and our efforts eventually resulted in decriminalizing many common adolescent behaviors. Huckleberry saw each youth as a whole person. A person who, with support and guidance, could return to a safe, successful and creative path toward their full potential.

As Huckleberry has expanded into broader programs of support, people ask about our secret to success and longevity. As a father, and a son, I suggest HOW we engage youth significantly impacts who they become. Today Huckleberry continues to fight against the unjust treatment of youth in our communities. Too often young people continue to be left behind, tossed aside, and locked up. We want all our youth to be safe in times of crisis, to enjoy physical and emotional health, to refrain from involvement with the law, and to become engaged in their individual learning path. Huckleberry continues to stand as a beacon of hope, a symbol that if we treat each other with dignity and respect, despite our situation, background and differences, we can create magic that changes the future. Imagine if we approached every young person with an inquisitive, optimistic and inclusive stance. Though this might sound like 60’s idealism, the history of Huckleberry has demonstrated the power of true human connection and that love from a summer long ago does change the world!

 

Douglas Styles, PsyD

Executive Director

Huckleberry Youth Programs

 

More on Huckleberry House:

Block Party: Sunday, June 18th: https://www.huckleberryyouth.org/2017/04/10/block-party/

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