Karen Cunningham

Karen Cunningham | Executive Director

Karen is a passionate and innovative nonprofit leader in the District of Columbia. A lawyer by background, Karen has been the Executive Director of Everyone Home DC since 2013. Karen’s leadership has grown Everyone Home DC from a budget slightly under $1 million to nearly $2.2 million, more than doubling the number of families and individuals served. She recently led the organization through an inclusive, ambitious, and rewarding strategic planning and rebranding process, which is now being implemented. Additionally, Karen’s foresight was instrumental in Everyone Home DC’s selection as one of only four organizations to launch the District’s Family Homelessness Prevention Program; creating the innovative volunteer street outreach opportunity–Homeless Assistance Response Team (HART); and refreshing the focus of Everyone Home DC’s systemic advocacy work to center the voices of people experiencing homelessness. During the first part of Karen’s career as a lawyer, Karen worked at Women Empowered Against Violence (WEAVE), tirelessly representing teen and adult survivors of domestic violence in protection order, family law, and immigration matters. She later moved on to The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty where she led impact litigation and policy work on behalf of people experiencing homelessness, particularly around the criminalization of homelessness and other civil and human rights matters, and homeless children’s education rights. Karen graduated from Georgetown University Law Center magna cum laude and received her bachelor’s degree with high distinction from University of Michigan in sociology and women’s studies. She was an Equal Justice Works Fellow and currently serves on several committees of the DC Interagency Council on Homelessness. Let’s learn a little more about Karen, in her own words:

What traits define you professionally?
KC: Authentic. Collaborative. Ambitious. Strategic. Creative. Caring.

What is your favorite thing about working at Everyone Home DC?
KC: I love working with such smart, passionate, creative, funny, caring, and supportive coworkers.

What inspired you to work at Everyone Home DC?
KC: I was working on the issue of homelessness at the national level and wanted to return to a local, direct services, organization making a difference in my own city. I was impressed by how much the local community took pride in Everyone Home DC–many people had four and five decade long relationships with the organization.

What does Everyone Home DC mean to you?
KC: To me, Everyone Home DC means working towards a District of Columbia where every resident has a safe, affordable, and comfortable home where they can thrive. When we talk about the concept of home at Everyone Home DC, we don’t mean shelter. A home is not just a roof over your head, not just an apartment, nor even a house. A home is a place where you feel safe and comfortable, a place of respite, a place where you can be yourself without judgement, where you are a valued member of a community, and where you can both contribute to your community and be supported by it. Everyone Home DC believes this kind of home is what everyone deserves.

Describe working at Everyone Home DC in 3 words.
KC: Challenging. Inspiring. Fun.

On a Sunday morning you will find me…
KC: Sleeping in and then going for a long walk with my awesome dog, Buster.

If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?
KC: I really want to get SCUBA certified. I love the ocean and snorkeling. Diving would allow me an even better experience of the underwater world.

If you won the lottery, what is the first thing you would do?
KC: Send my parents on an amazing vacation.

What’s your favorite indoor/outdoor activity?
KC: I love to ride my bike, hike, and take my dog on long walks or watch him play at the dog park. I also love to be near, on, or in the ocean.

What is your favorite place to visit in the DMV?
I like walking with my dog to Malcolm X park on the weekend. There are lots of dogs to greet, happy and relaxed neighbors, excellent people watching, and of course, the drum circle.

Where are you from originally and how long have you lived in the DC area?
KC: I grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan and have lived in the DC area since 1998.

What is your favorite D.C. restaurant?
KC: My favorites are the ones that participate in our Sip and Savor event, of course!