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The mission of the Chicago Housing Initiative (CHI) is to amplify the power of low-income Chicago residents to preserve, improve, and expand low-cost rental housing, stabilize communities facing displacement, and advance racial and economic equity and inclusion across all of Chicago's diverse neighborhoods.

Don Washington (he/him), Executive Director, Spring, 2020- present

The director of the Chicago Housing Initiative Coalition brings over 30 years' experience creating powerful intersectional, interracial, interfaith and intergenerational social justice campaigns, training programs and organizations.


  CHI's Director, Don Washington, specializes in the creation of self-replicating processes for community organizing institutions so that they can sustain their work past their initial campaign.  He also brings considerable expertise with public speaking and a deep understanding of a number of public policy areas.

Don has over 25 years of doing research, investigations, training, organizing, political strategy and public policy/campaign development on issues of human, civil and labor rights both here and abroad. He does this to feed himself and his addiction to books and stable housing. He has been an AP-Award winning writer, an amateur physicist, was once a well-regarded stand-up/improvisational comedian, playwright and remains a noted Tragic Action Hero. He is a life-long learner, a professional agent of change and firm believer in the common public good. He is currently the Executive Director of the Chicago Housing Initiative and is running a project that tracks the interrelations between both violent/dangerous right-wing organizations and movements, conservative think tanks/funders and politicians

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Executive Director

Mike Mayes (he/him), Tenant Organizing Intern

Mike was born and raised right here in Chicago in the Logan Square neighborhood. He graduated in 2016 with his Bachelors of Art in Social Justice from Northeastern Illinois University. Shortly after, Mike started volunteering at Joe Moreno's office from September 2016-December 2016. Mike joined CHI in 2021 as a volunteer and has since started as an organizing intern!

Mike is our Chicago Housing Initiative Tenant Organizing Intern. He conducts outreach, makes phone calls, builds relationships, conducts 1on1’s and support the work of the Executive Director and the other members of the Chicago Housing Initiative. He helps coordinate community forums, prepares and sets up community meetings, learn about public housing policy and explains it to others, creates core groups and prepares community members to hold elected and other officials accountable. 

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Samantha Butler (she/her), Research Organizer Intern

Sam is currently attending Adler University for Clinical Mental Health Counseling. She has an undergraduate degree in Criminology and Psychology from Missouri State University in Springfield. Also, Sam has a background working in the hospital setting.

Sam is our Chicago Housing Initiative Research Organizer. She learns about public housing policy and explains it to others, analyzes media and public policy, conducts research, makes phone calls, conducts 1on1’s, and interfaces with experts on public policy.

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Mcahl Sheffield (she/her), Media Organizer Intern

Mcahl graduated from the University of Utah with a Bachelor's of Science degree in Psychology as well as Human Development & Family Studies. Currently, she is attending school here in Chicago at Adler University in their Doctorate of Clinical Psychology program with an emphasis on children and adolescents. Mcahl has a history of working with low-income children and families, adults with disabilities, and children/adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Mcahl is our Chicago Housing Initiative Media Organizer. She maintains shared editorial control of our social media alongside the Executive Director and is the defector editor of the webpage and she drives and innovates our social media presence. She conducts 1on1’s, learns about public housing policy and explains it to others, coordinates our media engagement at community forums and helps us prepare for public events.

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       Leah Levinger, Founding Executive Director, 2009-Spring, 2020




Campaign Planning & Implementation, Legislation & Policy Expertise, Media Placement and Base-Building


Highly qualified community organizer offering 15 years of experience with intensive and successful community-based campaign experience in struggles to empower tenants, improve and expand Chicago’s low-income housing stock, and counter race- and class-based anti-affordable housing sentiment to build inclusive and integrated communities and combat segregation.  Results-focused, persistent, and passionate, with proven ability to turn a grassroots vision into reality by nourishing local leadership, building community power, and developing effective partnerships that create tangible improvements in people’s lives.  Experienced cross-sector coalition builder.  Knowledgeable about comprehensive redevelopment initiatives and city and federal legislative processes.  Exposure to diverse formal leadership development and organizer training programs.  Experience organizing powerful direct actions and broad-based community events.  Six years of experience with advancing local affordable housing legislation through Chicago’s City Council, securing endorsements of various City Council Caucuses, and brokering negotiations with the Mayor’s Office and Corporation Counsel. 


B.A. Philosophy and Anthropology, Honors

University of Chicago

·  Student Marshall Honor Society          ·  Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society

Community Organizer
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