Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles’s (Habitat LA) ongoing commitment to revitalizing the Washington neighborhood of Long Beach got a big boost earlier this year when Habitat for Humanity International selected Habitat LA as one of 10 affiliates worldwide to participate in a new program designed to improve the physical, financial, and personal well-being of all the residents of the community.
The program, known as the Quality of Life Framework, seeks to build a sense of community, improve social cohesion, and create opportunities for collective action. It also mandates research, data gathering, and other surveys that will periodically measure the effectiveness of each segment of the program.
Bordered by Magnolia Avenue, Long Beach Blvd, 20th Street, and Anaheim Street, the Washington neighborhood is one of the poorest parts of Long Beach. The unemployment rate is 8.7%, more than double the rate for the city overall (4.2%). The average household income is just $36,000, and less than 7% of homes are owner-occupied. Nearly half of the students at Washington Middle School are ill-prepared to attend high school, and 13% are chronically absent, missing 10% or more school days per year.
Our efforts to improve the quality of life in the Washington neighborhood will focus on the following five areas:
1) Safety. Safe Passage, a program we helped launch in March 2018, enlists volunteers from within the community to walk kids to and from Washington Middle School. Residents have already reported seeing fewer homeless people loitering near the school and a decline in risky behavior by students.
2) Unity. Street fairs, ice cream socials, and other neighborhood-wide gatherings create opportunities for residents to interact and create the strong bonds necessary for a thriving, supportive community.
3) Knowledge and support. We seek to identify five adults and five youths who can be leaders within the community. Funding development programs and training in public speaking and community organizing will empower these emerging leaders.
4) Resources. A neighborhood newsletter and a phone tree will keep residents informed about the resources available to them. We intend to translate as many materials as possible to allow all residents to participate in revitalizing their neighborhood.
5) Homeownership opportunities. We completed construction of four new houses on Henderson Avenue in September, and we have already committed to creating at least 50 more homeownership opportunities in the neighborhood. To reduce displacement, we have developed the Pathways to Homeownership program, a series of financial literacy workshops that ensure residents will be qualified to apply for homeownership opportunities through Habitat LA in the future.
Grants from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the General Motors Foundation, and the Wells Fargo National Housing Foundation have enabled us to start work on this innovative initiative. But we still need additional funding to meet the program’s annual budget for the next five years. If you would like to contribute to the revitalization of this neighborhood, click here.