Just One Mile: Gentrification in Congress Heights, DC

Who Is All of This For?

I feel good about the new schools and facilities coming to the area, not for us necessarily because we always had access because we had two cars and would go into Virginia or NW for activities with the kids, but because the people in the neighborhood before us will finally have access to the quality of services that people in other parts of the city already had. Congress Heights has amazing green spaces. Now that the city is cleaning them up, the kids can play and enjoy them.

My fear is, like the inexpensive Washington Ballet and Levine Music programs at the ARC, the area will be “discovered,” prices will rise, and those who have waited for change will find that the changes were made for someone else, not them. The cost of housing has already gone up, and even with the rent controls in place, with the level of unemployment and low income in the area, the daily evictions, evidenced by piles of furniture and personal belongings on the sidewalk that we drive by each morning on our way to the highway, are bound to become more frequent.

I would tell myself that we were doing something good for the community by staying, by not running from the gunshots, and helicopters, and stolen cars. I would tell myself that the kids in this neighborhood needed to see a mom and a dad living together who took care of their kids and went to work every day. Even in our little patch of heaven we were a curiosity to the kids in the neighborhood. Some of the houses had two parent families, but others had single, hard working mothers and grandmothers. Often kids would come over to play with my kids outside and whisper to my kids, “is that your dad?” To my kids it was obvious that the guy that washed the cars, brought groceries in, and inflated basketballs was the dad, but to other kids it wasn’t. Maybe I was doing something good for the community just by being here – or maybe I wasn’t.