August 13, 2022

Community News

October 20, 2021



Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Contact: Mayor’s Office of Communications,



HYPE Center is part of a $9.3 million initiative to better serve San Francisco youth impacted

by commercial sexual exploitation and homelessness

San Francisco, CA — Mayor London N. Breed, the Department on the Status of Women, and non-profit organization Freedom Forward today celebrated the opening of the HYPE (Helping Young People Elevate) Center, a drop-in center designed and developed by local youth that provides critical services and resources for 14- to 25-year-olds across the Bay Area.

The new HYPE Center will be open to all youth in need, with a specific focus on reaching young people that have experienced commercial exploitation, been impacted by systematic oppression, or experienced homelessness. Part of the San Francisco Safety, Opportunities, and Lifelong Relationships (SF SOL) Collaborative, the Center brings together multiple services, resources, and activities—all of which were specifically identified by a group of local youth—under one roof and through one platform to make it easier for young people to get the help they need and get it quickly.

“The HYPE Center is part of our effort to not only create better outcomes for our youth, but also to amplify their voices and experiences,” said Mayor Breed. “These young people have had to endure pain and trauma that no one should ever have to go through, and they know better than anyone the services and resources that have made a difference in their own lives and can create better futures for other young people, especially those who are victims of human trafficking or have experienced homelessness. I am proud of all the young people and advocates that have worked so hard to make the opening of this Center a reality.”

Non-profit organizations Freedom Forward and On the Move partnered to hire 11 “Youth Founders” ages 16 to 25 to develop HYPE Center’s mission, facilitate its design, and identify the specific needs of youth. The Center launched virtually in January 2021 and has served more than 200 young people since its launch, and is now open for in-person services.

Services include on-site legal and intensive case management support, mental health services, educational services, coding classes, self-defense workshops, and family support. Additionally, the Center aggregates data to analyze how youth utilize services and resources across providers, soliciting feedback to understand youth needs and outcomes holistically.

“San Francisco is fortunate to have an abundance of resources, but that doesn’t mean those resources are accessible to those who most need them. We have heard time and time again that the ‘system’ is not designed by nor for youth, but what if youth were a central part of designing systems? What if youth were not only at the table when decisions were being made, but were the primary decision-makers? The HYPE Center’s goal is to shift how decisions are made and how services are accessed, and to support youth in their own leadership and autonomy,” said Anastasia Mallillin, Director of Freedom Forward’s HYPE Center.

The current list of youth-identified organizations providing services include:

  • AnnieCannons, Inc.
  • WestCoast Children’s Clinic
  • Bay Area Legal Aid
  • Justice At Last
  • Huckleberry Youth Programs
  • Family Builders
  • Five Keys Bay Area
  • IMPACT Bay Area

Additional services will be joining the space over time as recommended by young people.

In 2019, the California Department of Social Services awarded the San Francisco Department on the Status of Women (DOSW) and the SF SOL Collaborative a three-year, $9.3 million grant, enabling the City to develop models of care to promote better outcomes for youth impacted by commercial sexual exploitation or other circumstances.

“The HYPE Center is the culmination of true collaboration and innovation among San Francisco’s leading advocates for youth and we could not be more excited about what’s to come,” said Kimberly Ellis, Director of the Department on the Status of Women. “Young people need a safe place and environment where they can start making decisions about changing their lives and living out dreams, dreams they often have been told they can’t achieve and don’t deserve.”

The HYPE Center is a centerpiece of the SF SOL (Safety, Opportunities, and Lifelong Relationships) Initiative, which brings organizations together to better serve youth experiencing commercial sexual exploitation. SF SOL is working to ensure that all youth, especially those that are typically the most excluded and marginalized have opportunities to thrive.

“Every day, young people are exploited, right here in our city of San Francisco,” said Alia Whitney-Johnson, Freedom Forward’s co-founder and Executive Director. “Many people think of youth sex trafficking as something that happens far away, but it happens in our city as well. Most of these youth have had touch points with our foster care system. Our systems and services have failed them. HYPE offers something different. Rather than pathologizing youth because of the things they have been through, we focus on their dreams and self-determination. The HYPE Center is accessible to all youth so that survivors don’t have to identify with labels when they walk in the door.”

“Youth who have overcome barriers and traumas can help pave the way for other youth to choose what they want and live up to their potential. This means having a space by youth, for youth, like HYPE. As youth, we see things that are usually missed by those in charge, providers, and the system as a whole. HYPE is how we change things,” said Janel Gonzalez, HYPE Center Youth Founder.

For more information about the HYPE Center, to connect youth, or to get involved, please visit or write to



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