Nonprofit buys building to continue services amid housing crisis

By Jessica Kwong on July 19, 2015

HealthRIGHT 360 may not be a huge household name in The City, but its profile is about to get a significant boost.

The healthcare provider — a merger of organizations including ‘60s substance abuse patient saviors Haight Ashbury Free Clinics and Walden House — by way of knocking and asking, landed a five-story, 50,000-square-foot building for purchase at 1563 Mission St. last year.

At the building, formerly used for garment manufacturing, HealthRIGHT 360 plans to include a primary medical clinic, dental clinic, pharmacy, substance abuse treatment, mental health services and even a resource center offering housing and employment assistance.

Staff came across the building as a potential site for the expansion because it’s only a block and a half away from HealthRIGHT 360’s current administrative offices at 1735 Mission St. It wasn’t on the market, but the owners believed in the nonprofit’s cause and ultimately decided to sell. Given San Francisco’s escalating housing market, buying instead of leasing was key too, said Vitka Eisen, HealthRIGHT 360’s chief executive officer, who in the ‘80s sought heroin addiction treatment from the parent organizations.

“Our goal was to locate a facility where we could bring a number of different services that are located at different places around The City all into one place so we can have a fully integrated, very robust system of care in one location,” Eisen said. “And own it so we could guarantee that we would be able to do this despite what’s happening with rents around The City.”

The new clinic is expected to help people like Ray Macias, 50, who two years ago was struggling from cocaine, PCP, marijuana and alcohol, incarcerated at a state prison when he met representatives from HealthRIGHT 360.

In applying for a residential recovery program run by the nonprofit on Hayes Street, Macias visited the intake office at 1735 Mission St. He was pleasantly surprised he was able to fill out logistical paperwork, take care of his Tuberculosis test and sign up for insurance through Healthy San Francisco all in one place. The expansion, he said, will be “way better than when I was there and be a lot more beneficial to the client.”

“It would alleviate a lot of issues with a person that’s struggling with drug dependency,” said Macias, who has since transitioned out of the program, gotten married and works as a safety coordinator for HealthRIGHT 360. “You don’t have time to think about, ‘I have to go here,’ and ‘They’re sending me somewhere else.’”

HealthRIGHT 360 is a major healthcare provider for the Department of Public Health, which funds all of its programs, and the expansion is expected to build on the organization’s legacy of serving those in need.

With the building under its belt, HealthRIGHT 360’s focus is a capital campaign to raise $15 million in three years to go toward the $45 million total cost of the purchase and rehabilitation.

The first year of the campaign wrapped up last month and saw $5 million. That level of contributions met expectations, and the clinic is confident it can reach its goal through reaching out to individual supporters and foundations that long backed Haight Ashbury Free Clinics and Walden House, said capital campaign director Jeff Schindler.

“People in San Francisco really do understand that so many nonprofits and healthcare organizations are being squeezed out of The City,” Schindler said. “So we are being very well-received in that we saw [the housing crisis] coming and we purchased it to make sure we maintained this service delivery for as long as it’s needed in this city.”

HealthRIGHT 360’s new clinic will be largest of the four it owns in The City.

Since the original merger, HealthRIGHT 360 has grown to encompass programs from the Asian American Recovery Services, Women’s Recovery Association, North County Serenity House, Lyon-Martin Health Services and Rock Medicine. It serves patients out of a dozen locations citywide and operates in 11 counties across California and inside a state prison.

San Francisco Department of Public Health Director Barbara Garcia — who proposed the 2011 merger between financially challenged Haight Ashbury Free Clinics and Walden House looking to expand — said HealthRIGHT 360’s new capital project sets the right example for other community-based organizations that have benefited from generous amounts of city funding.

“Relying on one funding source is kind of a dangerous way of continuing business,” Garcia said. “This nonprofit going out and seeking resources is exactly what we want nonprofits to be doing towards their own self-sufficiency.”

If the capital campaign keeps on track, the new clinic, to be named after any particularly generous donor, will open its doors in January 2017.

Read it on the Examiner website

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