Diversity. Welcoming. Potential. Passionate. Growing. Hopeful. Evolving. God-filled. Tight-knit. These are just a few of the words the attendees at the 2020 Neighborhood Revitalization Learning Cohort Gathering used to describe their communities in just one word. On Tuesday, January 14th, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles (Habitat LA) kicked-off the new year and our 30th anniversary year by hosting over 80 attendees from nine Habitat for Humanity affiliates to discuss what neighborhood revitalization looks like across the United States.
The mission of Habitat for Humanity neighborhood revitalization is to respond to neighborhood aspirations and collaborate with residents and partners to improve the quality of life. Every neighborhood is unique and has its own set of strengths and weaknesses that have to be addressed to ensure neighborhood revitalization is successful. The Learning Cohort Gathering offered the space for each affiliate to share their community’s wins and challenges. It also promoted opportunities to collaborate and provide insightful feedback to each other.
Habitat LA’s Neighborhood Revitalization program was created to address two interconnected problems in greater Los Angeles; the persistent lack of affordable housing and the disinvestment in our neighborhood infrastructure. The Washington Neighborhood of Long Beach has a homeownership rate of just 7% and is currently a key focus neighborhood for Habitat LA. Over the last few years, Habitat LA’s Program team, volunteers and community partners have worked diligently to empower the residents; yielding awards and national recognition for leading the way amongst fellow affiliates. Through programs such as Safe Passages, building up resident leadership, neighborhood branding, beautification projects and community events; Washington Neighborhood is starting to flourish in many ways.
The first day of the three-day Cohort Learning Gathering included a walking tour of the Washington Neighborhood, with stops highlighting several Habitat LA homes already built and repaired in the neighborhood, The George Washington Middle School Mural, Safe Passages (Habitat LA’s before and after school safety measure), Habitat LA community partners (such as the Long Beach Rescue Mission) and future Habitat LA project sites.
The attendees were transported to the neighborhood courtesy of Long Beach City Transit, a partner in the neighborhood revitalization efforts. “The Washington Neighborhood worked really hard and collaboratively to prepare for this tour,” Dinesa Thomas-Whitman, Habitat LA’s Director of Outreach, Advocacy and Policy explained. “It is really a representation of the voice and the vision of the community and I couldn’t be prouder of them.”
At the first stop, Dr. Roshann Williams, Principal of George Washington Middle School, welcomed the attendees to the neighborhood and presented the Washington Middle School Mural, “Beyond Borders” a landmark developed and created by the community in partnership with Habitat LA.
“I am so humbled and so grateful to be the principal of this phenomenal school. I am also so grateful for the partnership with Habitat for Humanity,” Dr. Williams expressed.
Along the tour route, Washington Neighborhood resident leaders led the presentations about the park activations, advocacy, resident leadership and education and affordable housing. This was a great example of the neighborhood revitalization model; vesting residents to tell their story and show pride in their work and communicating it to others.
“We know it’s not an easy thing, but a good thing is never easy.” Miguel Jaimes, Vice President of the Washington Neighborhood Association explained about the neighborhood work. “We are going to continue hand in hand so we can achieve a greater vision between Washington community and Habitat for Humanity.”
Washington Neighborhood Revitalization Progress to Date:
- 9 New Homes
- 13 Home Repairs
- 5 Rehabilitated Homes
- 12 Leader Resident Trainings
- 186 Community Surveys
- Repairs/Modifications for 5 Nonprofits
- Launched the Safe Passage Program
“This year, we will begin building 50 new homes in the Washington Neighborhood,” said Erin Rank, President and CEO of Habitat LA. “We are so proud of the community’s work and the work to come.”
View our 2020 Neighborhood Revitalization Learning Cohort Gathering event pictures and the map of our work!