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Last Saturday, May 8th, we launched our first Community Ride of 2021 in Washington DC.

Not only was it our first of the season, but also our first ever! 20 Riders from the DC Metro Area met up for a day and biked 15 miles through the city to meet with Jubilee Housing, the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, and Housing Up to hear about the work they’re doing in the affordable housing realm in DC.

Community Rides are meant to offer lower-commitment pathways into our world of Pedaling for Affordable Housing. Compared to our traditional offerings of cross-country (10-week) and regional (1-3 week) bike trips, these rides have a lower time commitment, lower cost, less gear needs, etc etc. Community Rides also offer something that our traditional rides typically don’t: in-depth engagement with a wider variety of affordable housing organizations. Participants gain exposure to organizations and individuals in their communities working in housing and also leave the ride with concrete takeaways from each organization about how they can continue to stay involved locally.

On a cross-country ride, teams stop once every 4-6 days to volunteer for a day with 1-2 organizations. When they’re not building, they’re bouncing from city to city working towards that common goal of getting across the US. While valuable in its own right, most Bike & Build alumni would agree that one component missing from their experience was a deeper connection to affordable housing in the communities we travel through. Enter: Community Rides!

So how did Saturday go in DC?

Well first of all, holy cow the weather was bonkers. Rain for 10 minutes, sweet sweet sunshine for 30 minutes, then more rain, then sunshine, and capped off with some… more rain. Otherwise it was a blast! We welcomed 9 alumni on the ride along with 7 newcomers to the Bike & Build community. After a 1-hour Route Meeting in the morning where we went over the day’s ride, the partners, some safety 101s, and a reflection on what we were each hoping to get out of the day, we boogied 0.4 miles over to the Adams Morgan neighborhood where Jubilee Housing is based.

Jubilee Housing is a fantastic organization, and there were two things that really stuck out to me during their 60-minute talk about their work. First, their hyper-local focus; they primarily work in this one area of DC, the Adams Morgan neighborhood, where they’ve come to own 10 buildings in the area to provide 800 people with housing and supportive services. Second, their recent-ish emphasis on providing housing for returning citizens who’ve been formerly incarcerated. After working in housing for a number of years, they identified a gap in support services for returning citizens that contributed to high rates of recidivism. They now offer reentry-specific services to house folks immediately upon release in order to provide a foundation from which to build a new life.

After Jubilee, we rode ~4.5 miles past the monuments and through the Mall to meet with Patty Fugere from the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless (and also eat lunch). The riding itself was great- we just cruised along through bike lanes, moseying at a casual pace that allowed us to take in the sights and chat a bit. Once we made our bagel lunches and sat down with Patty, she walked us through the work that the Legal Clinic has been doing for a few decades: providing legal support for unhoused individuals in order to help clients gain access to housing. What stuck out to me was Patty’s emphasis on how challenging it is to navigate the complex legal system, and how important it is to have someone who understands the system (their volunteer attorneys) support folks through the processes of finding housing and other support services.

To round out the day we rode about 6 miles north to meet with Dillon Ficca from Housing Up, an affordable housing developer that offers comprehensive support services to homeless and low-income families. We met Dillon near Abrams Hall at Walter Reed, where Housing Up provides 80 units of senior-specific affordable housing at The Parks at Walter Reed. The former military medical facility has been redeveloped into a mixed-use development, and Housing Up’s offices are located here. What sets Housing Up apart from other affordable housing providers is the in-depth services and case management they provide to folks in their programs, offering everything from tutoring and art classes for kids, to employment assistance, to health and wellness services, highlighting the importance of having an affordable home as well as a supportive community and access to resources.

Overall I think the DC Community Ride was a huge success (shout out to Celete Kato and Caroline Herre for crushing their Ride Coordinator duties) and represents an important shift in Bike & Build’s programming. I’ve personally done four Bike & Build trips: I rode cross-country on North Carolina to San Diego 2015, led Connecticut to California 2016, and led both Coastal Drift and Drift West in 2017. I am clearly a committed Fanboy when it comes to our traditional programming, but I’m truly excited about the direction Bike & Build is headed right now. Cross-country and regional rides will be back in 2022, and I can’t wait for that, but these Community Rides are an incredibly valuable way of achieving our mission in a different way. I’m excited to see Bike & Build’s programming grow to offer a wider range of ways to get young adults involved with affordable housing across the US, whether it’s biking, building, or Biking & Building.

Tell friends about our upcoming Community Rides! Register here to join us in Knoxville on May 22, and email [email protected] for details on any of the following:

July 10: Chicago, IL

July 10: Los Angeles, CA

July 17: New York, NY

September 11: Providence, RI

August 28: Seattle, WA (register here)

August 28: Twin Cities, MN (register here)