What is Housing First?

When talking to people who work on homelessness, you’ll come across the term “housing first” a lot. But what does this mean? First before what? The Daily Show investigates.


Get to Know a Donor: Rachel Bloom



I met Rachel Bloom in college (where she took over my room in my senior year house after I graduated), but I only really got to know her after school, when we were both in New York. Rachel came to the city to study Bioethics at Columbia, all the while pursuing an uncredited but equally valuable independent study in the anthropology of the modern city and its citizens. Rachel is an astute observer of both herself and others; incredibly self-reflective, she considers what she does, thinks, and says in light of societal norms and expectations as sharply as she observes and critiques said expectations. In an age famed for detachment and non-plan plans, Rachel is refreshingly enthusiastic. This makes her a great friend to have when you’re looking for someone to go with to a feminist book talk, belt out an amazing rendition of It’s Raining Men, hear write both poetry about the subway and an essay on wasting time written on the subway, or simply chat late at night about all the things in each of your heads.
Besides affordable housing, a cause that matters to me is: Oh man. Let’s see. I care a lot about improving the quality of sex education in high schools — intervention in this realm is such an opportunity for positive societal change, helping teenagers rethink harmful attitudes they might have internalized about gender and sex. (Abstinence-only sex-ed as taught in the US reinforces both gender and racial stereotypes and health disparities, a reflection of poor resource allocation and the power of toxic attitudes. I’d love to cite this claim; back in the day when I was an interesting person in undergrad I wrote a decent paper on the topic.) Especially when we’re trying to have conversations around consent at the college level (which is far more complex than yes/no questioning, as convenient as that would be), I think a lot of teenagers go through high school not knowing how to even talk about consent or conceptualize what consent might look like in their lives. Speaking much more broadly and diffusely, a “cause” I care about is encouraging people to appreciate the ways in which subconscious processing influences our conscious behavior, in that “harmless” micro-aggressions add up to real experiential differences in self-concept. This, in turn, is why I find it so important to target harmful internalized attitudes around sex and gender.



Rachel and nature

Can you teach us something cool about bioethics please? No one really knows what “bioethics” means. Or, some people know, but it’s an extremely broad field containing a lot of different subcategories. Largely, it covers a number of intersections between science and philosophy. It is also a historical field, tracking the ways that society and medicine and public health have played off each other in the 20th century and beyond. A lot of people are interested in biotechnology, the frontier of human-robot interfacing (prosthetic brain parts!), and the promises and perils of genetic intervention, for example. Others are more interested in patient care and privacy — how should the wealth of patient data available in the genetic age be protected and/or shared? How should certain data inform medical decision-making? My personal interest within bioethics is teasing out what it means to exist, an academically-glorified thought experiment offered up by stoners everywhere.

But to share something interesting/cool about bioethics…
did you know there is a different

Rachel and art

standard for whether or not you are legally dead according to biological criterion in NY and NJ? From my understanding, a bunch of rabbis lobbied successfully for the demarcation of brain-dead bodies as legally “alive” when a patient’s religious beliefs dictate that it is such. Everywhere else in the USA, if you are brain-dead, you are legally dead. Brain-death here is a pretty stark biological standard; no activity in higher brain regions, such limited functioning in the lower brain that a body cannot even sustain its own respiration. (This is distinct from a “vegetative state,” in which the brainstem is still able to regulate some or all homeostatic functioning — Terri Schiavo was vegetative, not brain-dead.) Some brain-dead patients are kept artificially “alive” by respirators until their organs can be donated, so that the organs are as fresh as possible (so the recipient’s body is more likely to accept the transplant). It’s illegal to harvest organs from an individual who is legally defined as “alive” (thus effecting their death via removal), so the brain-death criterion is, candidly, a convenient way to dodge the stipulations of medical ethics to “do no harm” to a living body. But continuing with the whole candid thing, I don’t really think there is an individual who exists in/as a brain-dead body, so while they are technically alive in an organismal sense, I don’t see any harm being done to any individual when this organismal life is extinguished.


Rachel and elephant

Do, Marry, Kill: Big 5 personality types, Myers Briggs, astrology Awesome question. I’d kill astrology, do Myers-Briggs, and marry the Big 5. Myers-Briggs has come off as very sexy during my early 20s, but I realize this relationship doesn’t necessarily afford me the space to grow/develop as a person, limited by the paradigm of description. Big 5 is more of a long-term option, always helping me keep in mind how conscientious and/or neurotic I’m being. But I’ll always identify — at least somewhat — as an ENFP. Young love…

If you could make something required reading for everyone on the planet, what would it be? I’m trying to think of the last book that made me think, OMG EVERYONE SHOULD READ THIS. I was super-excited for this question but am now realizing I’m better at individually-tailored suggestions. Junot Diaz’s This is How You Lose Her is exquisite. Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns is as well. Also The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen. And any of Craig Thompson’s comics. Almost all of what I read is written by dudes. I’d tell you to read Rebecca Solnit but her essays aren’t intersectional enough for me to vouch for it as required reading.

What’s the least serious identity you take the most seriously? (i.e. identifying as a night owl, nerd, iPhone 4 holdout, etc.) Why does it mean so much to you? Had you not asked me question #3, I’d have said I take my identity as an ENFP pretty seriously, or at least I have historically. But let me think on this a moment. For a long time growing up my identity was reducible to “that kid who skipped a grade,” and/or “awkward nerd with subpar social skills,” even after the latter description was no longer true. Right now, my most-important-least-important identity is a transient life-stage: I’m an “emerging adult” still trying to figure out the direction I might take in life (active)/where life might take me (passive)/some combination of the two. I am currently backlogged 4 loads of laundry and can’t seem to make progress on my grad school thesis. I have a track record of being over-privileged and have been financially independent for a grand total of 3 months. I miss undergrad. I’m answering this email at work. I watch critically-acclaimed television shows featuring similarly-situated young Jewish women taking on NYC. To me, this all fits in quite nicely with the “emerging adulthood” identity.


Rachel and dog

What question should I ask the next person? What would you have done if you won the Powerball jackpot? What do you think of the lottery in general? Did you ever read that one Shirley Jackson story in English class?


Sam’s question: What is your “spirit food,” and how do you think it reflects your personality? My spirit food is the bagel.

So, How’s Training Going?

So kind of you to ask!

Contrary to how it might seem so far, Bike & Build is actually not called “Raise A Lot of Money & Build.” Despite asking all riders to raise a seemingly-impossible $4,500 for affordable housing, the main event is still biking across this entire freakishly large landmass we call America.

When I first considered doing this, I definitely contemplated the distance you’d have to put in every day to make it across the country in two months, but the number was just so damn high I decided to ignore it. I’m quite trained in this technique from my experience disbelieving in the feasibility of marathons. Running one mile is a big ordeal for me, so when I heard that people sometime run 27 miles IN A ROW, I just figured they must have some special, mutant thing going on and went on with my life because that’s not a relatable concept to me at all.

When I saw the daily mileage for my route, I was no less incredulous, but figured, if a thousand other seemingly normal people have done this before, there must be a way I’ll be able to do it as well.

This way, I am sad to say, is through training. Here’s how that’s been going for me:

  • Very often, after I bike, my thighs feel like something big has just happened to them. I don’t know why, but I never feel exercise in my calves; it’s always my thighs. Whether this means I over-rely on my thighs or I have calves with definition so sharp they are forbidden by the TSA is unknown, but I think we all know my preferred answer.
  • I have tried (with varying success) to increase the length of my rides each time. I started using Strava, an app thing that tracks your distance and speed and has been linked to exercise addiction, to really get Quantifed Selfy with my training. Also, Bike & Build requires you ride at least 500 miles before the trip starts so you don’t puff out in a huff of exhaustion on Day 1 (I am saving that for Day 15), so I wanted a way to figure out if and when I do that besides trying to remember where I went and then looking at a map after the fact. However, I’m not quite sure it’s tracking me entirely, both because sometimes it seems to not acknowledge that I get home at the end of every ride, and I think I sometimes pause and then forget to unpause it. So we will all have to give up the dream of purely cold and mechanical calculated numbers and just believe me when I tell you I bike a lot.
  • After most rides, I usually feel like I could keep going, which is both reassuring and makes me feel as if I am not giving it my all or some other poster slogan. Isn’t the sign of a good workout collapse, or at least some vomit? I finally reached this point on Friday, when I took the alluded-to longest bike ride of my life so far, and yet, after a stint on the bus, got back in the saddle and rode even a bit more, so perhaps it’s riding after you truly believe you are about to die from exhaustion that is the mark of a true bike warrior or some other motivational bullshit idk.
  • While the contents of my legs appear to be getting stronger, the wrapping seems to grow a bit worse for wear each time I ride. I have a new collection of scratches, scrapes, and a rainbow of black and blue marks (some elevated!) from doing things such as having my bike fall on me, slamming my leg into its tubes, banging into the gears, and dropping my bike lock on my leg.
  • Thongs are a solution to wedgies only in that they ensure a constant wedgie, thus freeing you from the suspense of wondering when you might get one. Bike seats, it would seem, are in fact 3D renderings of thongs, offering a stronger, more assertive wedgie of not just fabric but metal, stuffing, and leather all up in there too. Unlike most things in society, they don’t even seem to have been optimized for men, as I can’t imagine they would be much improved by having an alternate lower torso anatomy to my own. To help counter this, Joe lent me his men’s large padded bike shorts, which are a perfect fit. But, just as SPF levels are not a permanent shield from the sun but just tell you how long until you have to reapply to try to not get cancer, so does padding your butt just stave off the inevitable soreness a little longer. Until I started riding my bike more heavily, I had always assumed the tailbone was simply a vestigial bump. Now I see its true purpose is to humble those of us who think we may have gained powers above our station through the invention of the bicycle. “No,” it whispers to you as you wince through its message, “you can never rise above walking, for I am always here to lower you with my pain.” The padded bike shorts muffle this cry a few hours longer, as well as making me look like a long-lost Kardashian sister.
  • Hills still suck, and I still photograph every hill I manage to complete as a way to stuff and mount these slope trophies, even though I remain frustrated that the photos never seem to do them justice. Sometimes I avoid routes or even biking at all because I just hate hills that much. When I reach one I think I can do, however, I try my hardest to ride through it without stopping or walking. If I can do that, I feel like the most accomplished person in the world for as long as it takes me to remember anyone else in the world’s accomplishments. When I don’t, I just wonder to myself how many more tries it will take for me to do it in one sweep, and fantasize about that day. After all, if there’s one thing I’m know for, it’s positive thinking.

Bike Rides I Have Known


My first bike ride with the knowledge that I’d soon enough be embarking on a cross-continent trek was a clean 5.6 mile loop to, around, and back home from Prospect Park in Brooklyn. Prospect Park is weird because the first half is a downhill so easy you feel like you shouldn’t be counting this as “biking,” but as “sitting on a moving seat,” followed by an uphill that makes you wish you’d never been born (it is not that steep, but biking is like carrying around a magnifying glass for slope– objects under pedals may feel much steeper than they appear– and I have a low bar for throwing in the towel on the human experience).

After that, I expected I would bike all the damn time before leaving the city, going so far as to postpone shipping my bike in the hopes that I would be able to use it until the last possible moment. I biked zero more times in New York.

this is all that, this is allll thaaat

Pictured: me riding my bike a final time in Prospect Park, NYC

When my bike finally made it to LA, Joe and I went together on a ride through the LA River Path. Getting to the path is the tricky part, as you have to weave your way through actual Los Angeles civilization to get to the barren wonderland that is the LA River and its adjacent bike path.

I will discuss this national treasure in a later installment, because I have since gone back to bike it many times alone and there is little to do as I do so besides compose potential blog posts in my head aimed at the imaginary people I assume read this thing so I will just write those as their own entities.


Joe putting my bike together as I helpfully research our new Silver Lake neighborhood by watching Transparent, almost as if he were… not opaque

My second ride in LA, alone this time, was an exact replica of my first ride with Joe, since it was the only route I knew. I followed the landmarks I recognized, from which I gained some serious insight into what my brain must be like to make certain things stand out to me enough to make them useful signposts. Often there would be stretches where I was totally unsure if I was still on the right track until I suddenly spotted a sign for a burger place wishing Justin a happy birthday that I had noticed because I immediately began plotting to have Joe’s birthday there in September so we could get his name on the sign, a collision repair shop that was curious to me for its rainbow logo, a store that does something I’m not quite sure of that I remembered for having almost the exact rainbow logo as the collision shop, or a group of hedges that are entertainingly tall and lopsided.

I even stopped off at Trader Joe’s to buy gummies because we had made that detour on our first trip home, so I didn’t know how to get straight home without it. Anyway, I figured I could use some mango gummies and Australian licorice (yes, the guy checking me out made fun of me for buying $8 of only candy, but what he didn’t know is that I spent my first few weeks in LA living almost exclusively off gummy candy, of my own volition).


Travel Town: sponsored by the Automobile Club of Southern California, it’s a place where kids can learn about a quaint thing our ancestors called “public transportation”

My third ride was with Joe again, back to the LA River bike path, but this time we kept going and found ourselves in Travel Town, a wonky theme park of old timey train cars that Joe said he would have been super into as a little kid. I watched one maybe one-year-old kid named Noah play, and as his mother observed, he was most intrigued by the gravel carpeting the park.

My fourth ride, again with Joe, was much more ambitious. We biked through the city to Hollywood, which is less the glamorous gossamer concept you’re envisioning and more a Hispanic neighborhood slash strip mall slash condominiums. Sure, there are lots of movies there, but mostly in billboards “for your consideration.”


On the plus side, I got to pass this

Our original plan was to go to LACMA, but I forced us to detour to and stop at In n Out for obvious reasons. By the time we got to LACMA we wouldn’t have had much time to explore before it got dark and biking home would suck. So we checked out the La Brea tar pits instead, and biked home in the light.


Proof I wear a helmet and will brake 4 burgers

Ride five was on my own, back to the LA River Path.

Ride six was a crazy odyssey which I will go over in the great detail it deserves in a separate post, because how much of this can you read (at least without a break)??


My Biking Playlist

While biking, I like to either sing to myself or treat myself to the pleasures of listening to music at the possible expense of draining my phone battery and getting stranded without a phone or map!! When I decide to live dangerously, here’s what I listen to.


Stop by Spice Girls  It’s sort of ironic because what I am trying to stop myself from doing is stopping.


king kunta

King Kunta by Kendrick Lamar I found and subsequently got into this song in the whitest way possible, that is, by seeing it on a list of NPR’s favorite songs of the decade. Now when I play it on my bike and pass people, I imagine they are surprised when the white girl they see doesn’t match who they expected when they heard this coming from behind them. Then I feel embarrassed and think about how no one is really paying that much attention to anyone else.



Sometimes by Heems Love the intro beat. Love the message. Love the lyrics. Wish the video didn’t use a woman as a literary device to signify “making it,” but when you just rap it to yourself while on a bike, you don’t have to see that, just think about it as you consider switching gears.



I’m Better Than Everybody by Lakutis ft. Kool AD What can I say that this song doesn’t say better? A modern classic. I have been known to chant the lyrics to this at boisterous parties, and what’s a more boisterous party than biking alone on the LA river?



California Love by Tupac Because I’m here now.


Get to know a donor: Sam Sanders

If you don’t already know (in which case, remind me to harass you over email or something soon), a big part of Bike & Build is fundraising. Each rider raises at least $4,500 by asking friends, family, and their dentists (they literally tell you to do that in the manual) to help chip in. Groups then allocate the money to affordable housing organizations across the country, who apply to Bike & Build’s competitive grants. 

I’ve been really blown away by the people I know’s generosity in giving to this meaningful cause, and I wanted to show off some of the awesome people who have been so gracious in helping out. On this blog, I’ll be showcasing donors through this Get to Know A Donor series.

First up, we have the indomitable Sam Sanders. Sam was once described to me as, “who we all would be capable of being if we all stopped reading random internet stuff and wasting all our time and lived completely up to our potential, maybe” i.e. she is unreasonably accomplished. I met Sam in college, where she was famous for her cheerfulness, larger-than-lifeness, extreme love of life and everyone in it (she told me she loved me within the first ten minutes of meeting me freshman year, in the Ratty), and being the smartest, most capable person alive. At school, Sam majored in History, was nationally ranked in debate, turned down a promised spot at Brown Med School for the chance to take Orgo 2 and the MCATs, and also somehow had a social life. I know I am missing things, because Sam knows everyone so she must have met them doing some club or something I’m not even aware of. I once saw her sleep sitting down, with her legs crossed.

After graduating, Sam cut down her already sparse sleep schedule to work for two years at McKinsey, spending her weekends volunteering at Planned Parenthood. She’s now at Harvard Medical School because of course she is. I have personally benefited from Sam because she gave me my amazing roommate (and her best friend since childhood), Alexandra, so now I both owe her and know all her embarrassing stories from the age 4 onwards.

But rather than sharing any of those, here is Sam, in her own words, kicking off our getting to know donors with an amazing person and great friend.


Besides affordable housing, a cause I care deeply about is: More transparency for Americans regarding healthcare options. I think it’s so hard to navigate the current system, especially for Americans not covered by their employers, and frankly it’s made access to healthcare for low-income Americans challenging (even under the Affordable Care Act).


Sam (left) with her twin sister, Beryl

What’s your current sleep schedule like? Crazy. My closest friends know this, but I generally go to bed around 9p on weekdays and wake up at 4a. On weekends, it’s more like midnight to 8a.

Why did you decide to go to Harvard Business School when you’re already a high-ranking executive in Mandy & Associates? How do you hope completing this degree will affect your career within the company?  Wonderful question.  To be clear, I haven’t actually gotten into HBS — I’m hoping to get in, but I apply in the fall for the MD/MBA program.  Fingers crossed!  In terms of how I think it will help my career at Mandy & Associates — I think that the HBS degree goes a long way.  I’m hoping for better career advancement opportunities at M&A after I get my MBA…but we’ll see whether Mandy feels the same way… [Ed. note: Sam is already a student at Harvard Medical School, and is hoping to enroll in Harvard Business School as well because medical school is very easy if you don’t combine it with something else. Mandy & Associates is the company her dog, Zoey “Mandy” Sanders runs. M&A employees many people both in and out of the Sanders family. Mandy is an alumnus of Harvard as well.]


“You have to put that one. What is that, a chalkboard with science?” – Joe

What was your favorite debate case?  Is it sad that I don’t remember like any debate cases I used? I just remember having a ton of fun my sophomore year debating with Joe.  I remember we used to run this Greek mythology case that was ridiculously one-sided…poor decision on our part…

What’s your go-to meal when you need to feed yourself or others?  Easy. Lean Cuisine.  Who doesn’t love a delicious frozen meal?

If you could make something required reading for everyone on the planet, what would it be?  I think Don Berwick’s Escape Fire speech is probably one of the most powerful pieces I’ve ever read about the US healthcare system.  It was published by the Commonwealth Fund, if anyone’s interested.  A short and quick read.

Can you teach us how to do something you know how to do, please?
 I used to be a competitive racewalker, but that would probably require us to be in person…

What’s the neatest thing you’ve learned recently? I recently finished learning how to perform a basic physical exam on a patient!  That was pretty cool!


Sam with her parents at her white coat ceremony in medical school!

Question of your choice; answer of your choice as long as it’s truthful. Or convincing, I guess. Can’t think of anything good!  Would you be interested if I told you that my favorite color is purple? [Ed. note: yes.]

Question Jenna should ask the next person: What is your “spirit food,” and how do you think it reflects your personality?