LaShelle Rollins’ rental house in West Baltimore is wedged between a line of derelict properties valued only by street gangs, drug addicts and firefighters conducting arson drills. And even though her family’s $700-a-month address sits across from a public school, they are among the only occupants of this desolate block.
Life in an emptied-out, rundown cityscape is a slog and Rollins is worn out by all of it: The sounds of late-night interlopers stomping down the stairs of a musty wreck next door; a constant fear of fire set by vandals; the social isolation; the rats. With no faith in a prompt police response, they keep a bat at the ready.
“It’s like we’re a forgotten population,” said Rollins, a Baltimore native who’s studying for a community college degree that she hopes will get her family out of this gloomy neighborhood — maybe even out of the city that part of her still loves.
The African-American woman with a bright-eyed 6-year-old daughter and a husband on disability isn’t the only one with leaving on her mind. At a time when rival cities are gaining population, Baltimore’s decades-long disappearing act is only continuing.