HYA Staff

Mary Howe – Executive Director
Kenn Sutto – Program Manager
Karin Adams – Program Manager
Jamon Balberan- Outreach Counselor
River Beck – Case Manager
Erick Salazar – Outreach Counselor
Ale del Pinal – Outreach Counselor
Krys Gerdes – Outreach Counselor
Saskia Biscoe – Outreach Counselor
Melissa Matheney – Case Manager
Jacob Montz – Logistics Co-ordinator
Shira Noel – Policy and Advocacy Coordinator
Toivo Ollila – Operations Manager

Mental Health Team

Masa Fisher, MD.
Maurice Byrd, LMFT
Jason Brown, LCSW



mary howe executive director

Mary Howe
Executive Director

Mary is a formerly homeless youth who has dedicated her career to developing and implementing interventions that empower young people to improve their own lives and those of their peers, and to addressing the structural causes of poverty and homelessness. Mary assumed leadership of HYA in 2006 when two longstanding grassroots programs—Haight Ashbury Youth Outreach Team and San Francisco Needle Exchange—ended their affiliation with Haight Ashbury Free Clinics, Inc. and merged to form a single organization under the name “Homeless Youth Alliance.” Mary secured fiscal sponsorship for the newly created HYA and spearheaded its consolidation and growth. She brings over ten years’ experience in direct service and outreach with marginalized and underserved populations. With each successive position she has held, she has been increasingly responsible for managerial, administrative, and supervisory duties, while still maintaining a hands-on approach to day-to-day operations. Prior to serving as Executive Director of HYA, Mary was an outreach worker and later the Center Manager for Haight Ashbury Youth Outreach Team, Program Coordinator for San Francisco Needle Exchange, and Trainer for the Drug Overdose Prevention and Education Project of the City and County of San Francisco. She is the recipient of a 2009 Bay Area Unsung Hero Award from KQED Northern California.



Kenn Sutto

Kenn Sutto
Program Manager

Kenn Sutto joined HYA in 2015. Before coming to the bay area, he was volunteering with the Emma Goldman Youth and Homeless Outreach Project in Olympia, WA, Second Cycle in Tacoma, Wa, and with the Catholic Worker House in Champaign, Illinois. When not working at HYA he spends time with his dog, his bicycles, and his loved ones.


Karin Adams
Program Manager

Karin Adams has a long and fond history of working with marginalized communities and the field of harm reduction. Karin grew up in a working class family in Sonoma County and has been establishing roots in Oakland for the past nine years. Her personal history and life experience fosters her passion and commitment to this work. At age 17 Karin began distributing safer sex supplies at local punk shows and proceeded to work several years in the field of HIV and HCV prevention through mobile test counseling, syringe exchange, and street-based outreach in rural areas. Wanting to focus on working with youth, Karin joined the team at Homeless Youth Alliance (HYA) from 2010-2014. Continuing to feel a strong connection to the work, Karin returned to HYA in 2018 to help facilitate and guide HYA’s very first transitional youth housing program! She is so very grateful to work in an environment that allows participants to grow and develop according to their own character and experience. She has found that HYA continues to uphold the radical notion that the young people we work with are the experts and play an instrumental role in shaping their own programming. While frontline work is undoubtedly necessary, Karin also prioritizes her efforts in advocacy around the decriminalization of the poor and addressing systemic inequalities. In her free time you can find Karin dancing in a studio or in her living room, running after her wild dogs, reading books about revolutionaries and/or Harry Potter, or crafting away at homemade gifts.


Jamon Balberan
Outreach Counselor

Jamon is a San Francisco Native that is still here! Although, he did spend some time in between birth and now, living in New Orleans. As a former homeless youth, who experienced the juvenile system first hand, Jamon has a seasoned outlook on the street life in the city. He feels that he grew out of being a self identified delinquent and has moved forward on his path to work with youth from all different backgrounds and in various venues, i.e., camp, school based and with “at risk” and other youth who are experiencing homelessness. Jamon has found a happy place and purpose here at HYA. Outside of work, he likes to connect natives and transplants with each other to help create fun memories and friends through dog walking, food and music.



River Beck
Case Manager

Beck has been as Outreach Counselor with HYA since 2018 and took over the Case Manager position in 2019. They self-identify as, a tranimal queerdo from New Jersey, who have been homeless on/off in the bay and beyond since 2003. Harm Reduction and outreach is where Beck found their passion and purpose in life, and a method of survival for themselves and their (trans) community. Their work history is in program coordination, research, organizing and direct action.
Beck believes that homeless youth have the solutions to their own issues and are the leaders of their communities.Beck dreams of integrating community support, campaigning, and direct action.

In their free time, Beck rides motorcycles, trains in martial arts, and hangs out with their super cute dog, friends and queer family.  They are grateful to be a part of what they say is, “a dedicated and focused team of Harm Reduction badasses,” at HYA.



Erick Salazar
Outreach Counselor

Erick is an Outreach Counselor at HYA who is committed to the organizations goals working with youth and harm reduction. He moved to the bay from L.A and has worked with the homeless and queer community in the bay area. Erick enjoys volunteering, creating art, Chicano punk, pre- Columbian/Meso-American art and social justice.



Ale del Pinal
Outreach Counselor

Ale was born in Guatemala and grew up in the East Bay. She is passionate about harm reduction and helping underserved populations. She helped found the grassroots outreach organization Punks with Lunch in Oakland. She admires and is committed to HYA’s philosophy and commitment to the youth in San Francisco. When not volunteering or working, Ale spends her time with her dog and playing in her punk band.



Krys Gerdes
Outreach Counselor

Krys grew up in the San Francisco bay area and joined the HYA outreach team in 2017. They self-identify, as a formerly homeless ex-drug user in San Francisco. They credit their practice of complete abstinence, as to what helped them transition off of the streets. They believe in the importance of Harm Reduction, meeting people where they are at and helping people in our community who are otherwise underserved. Krys enjoys doing yoga, meditation, punk rock and queer arts.



Saskia Biscoe
Outreach Counselor

Saskia is excited by the growing awareness and application of Harm Reduction philosophies and know by firsthand experience, the healing power this model of care can have.They deeply believe, that all people deserve to have support, tools and autonomy; by these means, folks can affect change in their lives and community. Saskia is originally from Arizona, by way of Chicago, where they learned how precious good weather and access to nature is. When they are not working, Saskia enjoys hiking, exploring by bicycle, reading and crafting practical pretty things, preferably in sunshine.


Melissa Matheney
Case Manager

Melissa is a Bay Area native and loves working in and giving back to the community she comes from. New to HYA in 2019 (but a long time admirer from across the Bay); Melissa started her career in Oakland as a volunteer with friends, and later joined an agency as an outreach worker and case manager. Melissa gives gratitude and thanks to the harm reduction model for both saving her life and allowing her to love herself and those around her, as they are. In Melissa’s spare time she enjoys parading around with her dog entourage and cat, spending time with her partner and friends, as well as yelling at the TV when the news is on.



Jacob “Jake” Montz
Logistics Co-ordinator

Jake first connected with HYA when he stopped by to donate clothing after moving to San Francisco in 2010. Soon after, he started regularly producing baked goods for our, now closed, drop-in center. In 2014, he become the pancakes and pizza guy at our weekly group serving participants, as well as, a volunteer at our needle exchange site. In August 2017, he was hired at HYA, as the Program Assistant. He is now responsible for the logistics and maintenance of our outreach supplies. Jake loves working behind the scenes here, supporting the outreach team and says he feels honored to assist with the function of this organization. He is currently working towards a Master’s degree in Museum Studies at USF. He is passionate about making museums more accessible to all people. When he isn’t studying, you will probably find him hanging out with his two dogs, listening to music and reading comic books.



shira noel - advocacy and policy coordinator

Shira Noel
Policy and Advocacy Coordinator

Originally from Venice Beach, Shira Noel started working as our Policy & Advocacy Coordinator in October 2013. Although new to the team, she has a history with HYA and the community that spans over the last nineteen years. Coming directly from the population, she has a deep commitment to preserving the services HYA provides and personally knows how invaluable they are. She is dedicated and grateful to have an opportunity to represent the kids and the mission of the HYA and to be able to lend a voice and fight for them in ways she has long wanted to.



Toivo Ollila
Operations Manager

Toivo is from San Francisco and grew up in the Fillmore and Mission neighborhoods. He has worked in community grass roots and harm reduction programs for over 20 years, but his heart has always been with and for the SF kids. He found his dream job at HYA in 2016. He stays up too late making art and music and playing video games.



Mental Health Team


masa fisher m.d.

Masa Fisher, MD.

“Dr. Masa’s” specialty is harm-reduction psychiatry. He is a San Francisco native and often expresses how happy he is to be able to be “helping the community I grew up in.” Dr. Masa works with participants one on one and in the group setting. He is often instrumental in getting a participant placed in housing and he is a tireless advocate for the homeless youth of our community. Dr. Masa brings many years of experience in public health and serving the mental health of homeless people. He was awarded the “Outstanding Chief Resident” award, from San Mateo County Psychiatry Residency in 2005 and continues to garner praise and recognition from the psychiatric and public health communities. His presence at HYA has brought a noticeably higher level of crisis intervention, mental health care, and effectiveness. We feel very fortunate to have him on board.



Maurice Byrd, LMFT

Maurice Byrd, LMFT, is a staff therapist with the Harm Reduction Therapy Center, where he provides mental health services in community programs and private practice. He is a graduate with an MS in Counseling Psychology with a Marriage and Family Therapy focus. He is also a Certified Anger Management Facilitator. Since beginning his work in community-based organizations as a counselor and intensive case manager in 2004, he has facilitated groups focusing on a variety of topics, including anger management, substance use, and harm reduction. He has worked with a diverse range of populations including adolescents, families, people court-mandated to treatment, the dually and multiply-diagnosed, homeless adolescents and adults, veterans, and violent offenders. Maurice is a San Francisco native who grew up in the Lower Haight/Western Addition area, and he has a great familiarity with and perspective on the homeless youth culture of the Haight Ashbury.


Jason Brown, LCSW

Jason is a staff therapist with the Harm Reduction Therapy Center.  He offers therapy and support to HYA clients and multiple community programs in San Francisco.  Jason uses a relational and collaborative approach and has ten years of experience working with diverse populations including transition age youth in extended foster care, individuals with severe mental health issues, teenagers and homeless adults in San Francisco and the East Bay.  Jason also has years of experience working with the LGBT community and is happy to support clients in accessing gender-affirming surgeries and healthcare.