San Francisco is well known for having high housing costs. So what do you do if you’re one of the city’s lowest-income residents? If you’re in Chinatown, the person to see just might be David Ho, 29. David discovered a passion for social justice advocacy in college, and since then he has made a career for himself as a professional activist, helping some of Chinatown’s most vulnerable residents. As a Senior Community Organizer at San Francisco’s Chinatown Community Development Center, David counsels low-income people in the area on housing issues. He also provideseviction-prevention defense work and advocacy on behalf of vulnerable members of the community. For 30 years, the Chinatown Community Development Center has dedicated itself to bringing improvements to housing, transportation, and open spaces, as well as providing affordable housing and tenant services. To learn more about the organization and David’s advocacy work, check out this week’s Nonprofit Spotlight.
About the non-profit
Chinatown Community Development Center is a comprehensive community development organization dedicated to planning improvements to neighborhood housing, transportation and open space, nurturing grassroots leadership of community residents, and provide affordable housing and tenant services for some of the lowest income San Franciscans.
What are your day to day responsibilities?
My day to day responsibilities include providing housing counseling services to the most vulnerable residents facing substandard housing conditions and eviction prevention defense work, advocacy on behalf of communities made up of low income immigrants and people of color to ensure that the community benefits from various community-related planning and policy issues.
Most notable milestones
Too many to name, but I’ll mention a few highlights: registering more than 500 new voters that do not normally vote in Chinatown’s residential hotels, helped organized the passage of a city ordinance mandating the requirement of mailboxes for residential hotels, and electing my former coworker onto the San Francisco board of education (on my own time of course).
What’s the niche?
As one of the few locally raised activists that is actually from the San Francisco bay area, I think it gives me a insider’s perspective on my work and also having an immigrant sensibility as a guiding force towards work and life.
What’s the biggest challenge?
Is social activism sustainable? Can you have a family and still maintain the kind of pace and balance needed to serve the needs of the community? I’m still in search of the right answers myself.
What’s in store for the future?
I can see myself doing this kind of work for a very long time.
Best way to keep a competitive edge
Believe in your own convictions and be persistent.
Guiding principle in life
Family is in the heart; strive to maintain roots in the community.
Goal yet to be achieved
I’m still a paid professional activist!
Best practical advice
Follow your own instincts.
Supportive words from a family member or friend on your venture
Bao Yan Chan, a 88-year-old woman activist from Chinatown told me something I’ll never forget: “always do the right thing, even if you’re on the losing side.”
Reverend Norman Fong and Gordon Chin. They’re like a one-two punch and partners in crime. Gordon is like the godfather of Chinatown and Norman is like the brother I never had even imagined. Both are equally talented and unselfish in their respective ways. I’ve learned so much from just watching them do their work and navigate through a fairly challenging community environment.
What motivated you to get started?
Discovering my passion for social justice advocacy during college.
Like best about what you do?
Seeing firsthand the deep impact our work has on the people we serve and having met so many wonderful people who really have become an extension of my family.
Like least about what you do?
Dealing with unprincipled politicians and community politics
At age 10, what did you want to be when you grew up?
What was your first job?
This is my first job out of college!
Biggest pastime outside of work
Community volleyball and drinking for a good cause.
Person most interested in meeting?
I think it’s a tie between my paternal and maternal great-grandfathers. My paternal great-grandfather left Macau for the Phillipines to become an English teacher through the missionary service and my maternal great-grandfather who came to the United States as a “papered son.” I want to learn more about their life stories and gain a better understanding of the circumstances of why they left their families and homeland.
Leader in business most interested in meeting?
Someone like Jerry Yang, the co-founder of Yahoo who can do more to advance our work and bridge the socioeconomic divide in the world we live in today.
Three interesting facts about yourself
- Born in Macau.
- Raised by my grandfather.
- I was born left-handed, but my kindergarten teacher forced me to switch to the right.
Three characteristics that describe you
Three greatest passions
- Social justice
- Go Giants!
Anything by Haruki Murakami
Supporting anything I will not lose sleep over.
Who would you like to be contacted by?
Fellow activists, students, and people who genuinely want to learn more about Chinatown CDC and our work. Of course, we would also like to be contacted by philanthropists and donors who want to make a difference.