LOS ANGELES — In Wilmington, more than 55,000 residents call the port city home, but one house has turned into a place of stability for Alicia Baltazar as she raises her last school-aged child.
She moved to Wilmington over six years ago when a medical condition made it difficult for her to work, let alone afford the medical bills that came with it.
Ultimately, she found herself facing homelessness for more than a year before receiving a Section 8 voucher. Now, a couple of blocks away, she's concerned that a soon-to-be permanent housing building will disrupt the safety of her neighborhood and the schools nearby.
"I feel overwhelmed, and I feel scared because from right here, where I'm standing, I can see the high school. I can see the junior high, and I can see the early education center. I can see our library, and I can see where this is the beginning of our hub. This is our community. This should be so full of businesses that we're just thriving. So, it makes me panic to think of what it possibly could become," Baltazar said.
Baltazar is one of many residents that have come together to voice their opposition to supportive housing in the area. Through some research, she realized a 54-unit permanent housing project would soon be coming to the 1300 block of Avalon Boulevard, and it wouldn't be the last. In Wilmington, 585 individuals were reported to be experiencing homelessness in the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority 2020 Homeless Count.
"I started finding out that this wasn't the only one that was going here in Wilmington. There were several going here in Wilmington. And then, I started looking at other communities, and I started realizing that they don't have these kinds of supportive services in their communities. So, I wonder why a community like Wilmington is being so flooded with these supportive housing units," Baltazar said.
Out of 14 Prop HHH Housing Challenge sites to be constructed in Los Angeles, five are within Councilman Joe Buscaino's District 15. Three locations will be in Wilmington. The port city is home to an estimated 55,000 residents who are predominately Hispanic or of Latino descent and where the median household income falls at about $50,000, according to the 2019 American Community Survey. Baltazar shared that she's reached out to the city councilman but was left with more questions than answers.
"I got a group together of people who are really concerned, as concerned as I am, and we started writing emails to Buscaino asking to meet with him. Asking him to hear our concerns and possibly find a better location. To this day, we've been ignored," Baltazar said.
We also reached out to Buscaino's office, and they did not respond to our requests for comment. More than 5,000 residents came together to sign a MoveOn.org petition in hopes of seeing fewer housing projects move into the city. However, construction for the Avalon Boulevard site is slated to begin later this year.
"I want to make this my home. I want this to be where my children get to grow up, where they get to raise their families, buy homes and have jobs," Baltazar said.
Until then, Baltazar is determined to continue being a voice for her neighbors and the community she calls home.