Hello Greater Greater Washington community! My name is David Whitehead, and as GGWash’s Housing Program Organizer, I’m the latest addition to the organization’s growing staff.

What’s the housing program?, you may ask. That’s a good question, and one we’ll be asking ourselves continuously over the next couple months. But here is what I can tell you so far:

1. Housing is unaffordable for too many in this city

I moved here from Chicago, my first home as an adult after growing up split between the small town of Niwot, CO, and the hill country outside of San Antonio, Texas. In Chicago, I rented a nice 1-bedroom apartment that was twice as big as what I live in here in DC… and I paid exactly half the price.

I spend well over 30% of my income on housing, and I know there are plenty of others in the region who do the same. The reality is that there are many more with far less than I, whose struggles are far more intense. Part of our mission here at GGWash is to help shape a more livable, walkable, and inclusive DC area, and I think housing is the place to start.

2. Sometimes blogging is not enough

Greater Greater Washington has been instrumental and powerful in shaping much of the discussion and policy of our city, especially in regards to transportation. As a former high school math teacher, I truly appreciate the power of knowledge and its ability to change not only us, but the space we live in. During the five years I taught in Chicago, Costa Rica, and here in DC, I relished the moments when my kids not only finally “got” something, but also when they were able to use that information to engage and push back on the world around them.

But as I’ve transitioned to become a community organizer, I’ve learned that even the best-armed arguments and the most convincing and well-supported ideas all too often don’t materialize into policy and public reality. It was partly this frustration — that knowledge wasn’t enough to change the trajectory for some of my students — that led me step out of the classroom and into the public space.

Sometimes we just have to advocate and organize to win the kind of changes we want to see.

3. I can’t do this by myself

I’m incredibly excited to meet the army of contributors, commenters, and volunteers that is Greater Greater Washington. My experiencing organizing with citizens and homeless families over the last year has taught me that the right ideas and the right leaders are often right here with us already. I hope I can help GGWash provide a platform for those ideas to shine and for leaders to step into the public arena and act with the support of this strong community behind them.

Our collective of writings and discussions have already shaped DC in many ways, and I can’t wait to see what will happen when we combine those forces with our collective action. See you all soon.

David Whitehead was the Housing Program Organizer at Greater Greater Washington from 2016 to 2019.  A former high school math teacher and a community organizer, David worked to broaden and deepen Greater Greater Washington’s efforts to make the region more livable and inclusive through education, advocacy, and organizing. He lives in Eckington.