Blog post by Reed from Washington, DC
Last year I gave my $10 to several people who were victims the gentrification that is taking place in DC. Ca’ Vonn E. stands out the most. I met her in the Shaw neighborhood at the controversial plot of land referred to as Parcel 42; land that the local residents say former Mayor Adrian Fenty agreed to make into affordable housing. When that didn’t happen they took matters into their own hands and created a tent city on the land as a form of protest. From bringing food and water to securing the URL for their website, I spent several weeks helping the residents of tent city.
Last Monday I got another opportunity to help ensure affordable housing options exist for lower-income families here in our nation’s capital. Yachad (pronounced yah-hod) is a DC organization whose mission it is to repair and rebuild lower-income neighborhoods by engaging construction and real estate professionals and hundreds of volunteers to repair housing, renovate storefronts, and create safer community spaces.
Yachad, whose name comes from the Hebrew word for together, has an initiative called We the People where they mobilize volunteers on federal holidays for service projects. I decided to spend my Memorial Day with them.
I walked from the Fort Totten Metro Station over to the properties that we were going to be working on. With the temperature clearly on its way to 90+ degrees, drops of sweat had already covered my forehead before I had even lifted a hammer.
Kendra Rubinfeld was surrounded by a group of eager volunteers when I arrived. She explained that the occupancy ratio of this apartment complex was falling and as a result has put the property in jeopardy of being lost to developers who would turn it into expensive townhouses. “Our goal is to refurbish these units as quickly as possible so that they can be rented and start generating money so that doesn’t happen,” she explained to me.
I got to work on an upstairs unit that had been gutted and needed to be sanded and painted. One of my least favorite tasks is working on ceilings – there’s just no good way it seems to do it without getting your back or neck messed up. Luckily for me I got pulled onto another project as they needed some people to help install some locks on the doors. I had just replaced the lock on my father’s front door a few weeks earlier and was emboldened to believe that I was an expert.
I encourage you to check out the photographs I took. Some of the units were in very poor condition, but we made great progress and soon these will be filled with happy tenants.
There are several ways that you can help Yachad. For those of you in the DC area you can volunteer like I did on a federal holiday. If you don’t live in the area but still want to help them in their mission, I encourage you to make a donation to help pay for contractors and supplies needed to refurbish more houses. I’ve seen a lot of nonprofits and can tell you this is one worthy of your donation.