When they first started their program, Homies Organizing the Mission to Empower Youth had scant resources, even by 1990s standards. Their first offices were located inside a warehouse with only a six-month lease.
Now, nearly 20 years after launching in the Mission, HOMEY is set to officially open for business in the heart of the Mission and provide services to youth once again. Roberto Alfaro, the non-profit’s executive director, said it was a year-long process of renovations, remodeling and other hiccups that led to HOMEY scaling back some of its offerings and postponing their official unveiling to the public until today – the celebrations at 2221 Mission St. will begin at 4 p.m. The move was made possible by a $75,000 grant from the mayor’s Nonprofit Sustainability Initiative that HOMEY received in 2017.
“I’m just excited to start the engine and take off now,” Alfaro said.
And, it’s had some capital to help. In 2017, HOMEY received a $15,000 grant from the Latino Community Foundation to take part in the foundation’s first-ever nonprofit accelerator, which also helped the organization raise an additional $125,000. The 16-month incubator program selected 10 nonprofits from across the state and is the first of its kind.
Masha Chernyak, the vice president of programs at the foundation, said they spent years developing a way to connect donors with Latino nonprofits which, she said, are often overlooked and underfunded.
Chernyak said the foundation received a $1 million grant from Google.org to launch its accelerator over two years, along with donations from San Francisco Foundation that totaled $250,000, and the Akonadi Foundation, which also gave $25,000.
“We have so many incubators in the Bay Area, I can’t even keep track of them,” said Chernyak. “I don’t know a single one for grassroots latino nonprofit leaders. So we decided to launch one.”
In essence, she said, the idea was to find a way to treat nonprofits like tech start-ups and to build them up by connecting them with tech industry mentors to teach them new skills in marketing and fundraising.
The year-and-four-month process culminated with a Demo Day pitch event at Grand Theater this past December. It looked like a TED talk with investors and philanthropists in attendance, and every participating group was given three minutes to pitch.
Alfaro’s pitch provoked tears — his own, and probably some in the audience.
“It was tough, man,” he said. “I got a little emotional … when I went up there and talked about what our neighborhood is going through.”
In the end he took second place, winning a couple of tickets for an international trip that he still hasn’t used. First prize was a $25,000 award that was won by Jose Cordon from Brentwood-based organization One Day At a Time (ODAT).
“I don’t know where I’ll go yet, maybe take the fam’ to Cabo,” Alfaro said.
Coinciding with their time in the incubator came the struggle to find a new office. Their office of 15 years off Washburn alley near Mission street in SOMA was a bit hard to get to, hidden from the main drag and the rent was going up.
With some help from a nonprofit displacement fund, HOMEY found a place in the Mission at 2221 Mission St., according to Dyana Delfin-Polk, HOMEY’s community builder and planner.
“It was a bit surreal, because you hear these stories about nonprofits and community members being displaced from the Mission. So to be able to come is like a miracle for us,” Delfin-Polk said.
HOMEY’s Alfaro said reopening in the Mission is just one part of their vision for the future. They also plan to open another site at a proposed affordable housing building at 1990 Folsom St, a project spearheaded by Mission Economic Development Agency and Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation.
The site would have a lounge, a classroom as well as counseling offices and a computer lab.
“It’s definitely multipurpose, man,” Alfaro said with a grin.