Potrero Hill Neighborhood House’s executive director, Edward Hatter, lies awake at night worrying about what would happen should the facility close its doors. “It scares the hell out of me,” he said in an interview with the View, adding that it would be “devastating.”
The Nabe, as it is known, located at 953 De Haro Street, hosts afterschool programs for middle and high schoolers from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday, a summer camp, counseling and anger management education for youth, and senior programs. It also provides meeting space for various 12-step groups and community organizations, such as the Potrero Hill Democratic Club and Potrero Boosters. Live Oak School uses the facility for their basketball program. Amenities at the Nabe include a theater, computer lab, art room, multipurpose space, classroom, two kitchens, a children’s playground, and a gym.
The Nabe had to close its youth substance abuse program three years ago because the population it served dwindled. The program had served 48 youth not served in any other program, with funds provided by the Department of Public Health. “Youth programming is way, way down,” Hatter said. “I can remember 10 years ago, 400 youth used to come in for the summer camp, and now we’re doing less than 150 to 175.”
As a result of funding cuts, over the past several years the Nabe has encountered a series of budget challenges, which led the nonprofit to sell a parcel of land it owned across the street, and incur a tax lien.
About 43 percent of the Nabe’s funding, or roughly $353,000, comes from the San Francisco Department of Children, Youth and Their Families. These monies mostly pay for programs, with limited contributions to overhead expenses. The rest of the Nabe’s funding is raised by “hook and crook,” according to Hatter.
“I’m meeting with the [executive] board almost weekly,” Hatter said. “We have ideas on raising revenues, but at the moment, space rentals is all we have. The City won’t pay rent for programming. We have to raise money elsewhere, like our festival and through special events.”
Special events – weddings, bar/bat mitzvahs, and anniversary parties – help keep things afloat, bringing in $60,000 a year, according to Hatter. Renting space at the Nabe is relatively inexpensive; it costs around $3,000 to secure the main room for a wedding; comparable spaces cost at least 25 percent more. Recently, the Nabe increased rents on its regular users, such as the Democratic Club, the first time room charges have risen in a dozen years. The facility has applied for grants and is appealing to displaced community-based organizations who are looking for rental space. Ultimately, the Nabe is “property rich and program poor,” said Hatter.
Much of the population the Nabe historically served, especially the black community, has left the City. While the Nabe’s clients have generally lived in Bayview and Potrero Hill, today youth come from as far away as Antioch and Pittsburgh for its summer in the City camp.
“Families are being moved out, but they work here in the City and still have to have childcare and activities,” Hatter said.
Due to the distance parent’s travel, they needed child care programs to start earlier that what the Nabe was offering. This year, the number of daily kids requiring morning care doubled, from six to 12. Children are coming in at 8 a.m. when the program didn’t start until 10 a.m. “We were able to adjust staff scheduling so it wouldn’t hurt our budget, but that is something we had to do,” Hatter said.
Another program that’s struggling is the senior adaptive and social development program, funded by Golden Gate Regional Center. The Nabe used to serve 44 clients five years ago; it now caters to just 23.
Despite the headaches, Hatter, who makes an approximately $65,000 annual salary, is determined to keep the Nabe open. “If I have to put my own neck on the chopping block to keep it open, I’ll do it,” he said.
“I want View readers to know the Nabe is a safe, community-powered location that supports all members of the community. But it takes community to keep it alive and vibrant.”
Proceeds from the October 17 Potrero Hill Festival will be donated to the Nabe; a pancake breakfast will be held on November 14.