Pedaling for affordable housing—meet Jess from SF

August 01, 2019

“I grew up on the Seacoast of New Hampshire in a town called Portsmouth. After graduating from the University of New Hampshire, I moved to the Bay Area for an indoor agriculture job. 

Upon arriving in the Bay, it was nearly impossible to find housing. The once calm, quick, and fun process, became terrifying. Time was ticking and I needed to find a place to live. I sent 20+ emails, and by the time I got a response, the unit was filled. I had to live in an Airbnb for a month because I couldn’t secure housing. Airbnb was the cheapest option but was still extremely expensive, I couldn’t afford to live there for much longer. After many emails, visits, and lots of patience, I ended up living in an SF neighborhood called Excelsior in a basement ‘flat’ with my partner.

The rent was crazy high and the living conditions were not great. After living there for a while we realized the basement was set up more for an Airbnb, and the sink and shower drains barely drained. The walls were also fractured and full of holes. Worst of all, the basement was filled with mold because there was no ventilation other than a few windows the landlord asked us to keep closed most of the time, one window fan, and the shower vent.

That aside, I know it could have been much worse. San Francisco has an insane waitlist if you need to live in a shelter. I know a couple who was forced to continuously live in & out of homeless shelters. They each worked 18+ hours a day while their kids slept in the car. They lived in constant fear of losing their children to child protective services.

Eventually, they found a rental in a condo a few hours away from the city. It was falling apart, full of mold, their neighbors were always taking hard drugs and violently fighting. It wasn’t a safe place for their family. They commuted 3-5 hours a day to find work through an unreliable and disrespectful contracting agency. The price of gas with the cost of rent eventually made the situation unaffordable. I’m not sure where they are now, but last I heard they still weren’t living in a home.

These and countless other stories I hear made me become an affordable housing advocate. I’m now volunteering with Bike & Build, a nonprofit that gathers young people to go on cycling trips across and throughout the U.S. while educating, advocating, fundraising for affordable housing grants, and assisting other affordable housing non-profits with housing builds along the ride.

On August 4th, I’ll be joining 21 other participants in cycling 950 miles from Portland, OR to Bellingham, WA for three weeks. Every night, we will be staying in schools, churches, or libraries to give affordable housing presentations to local communities. We will also work with local affordable housing groups to assist with 5 affordable housing builds. Before anyone volunteers with Bike & Build, participants must interview an affordable housing recipient and a member of a local affordable housing organization, participate in group discussions every week online, fundraise at least $2,400 (for the trip I’m attending), volunteer 15 hours with a local affordable housing group, and train for the trip by riding at least 500 miles, including rides up hills, in the rain, with a local cycling group and over 65 miles. 

Every donation helps our cause. Donations to Bike & Build go towards financing our bike trips and funds Bike & Build’s affordable housing grants. Volunteering is a great way to advocate for more affordable housing!”

Inspired by this story? Share yours at