"It was just a great place to live," said Vello. [And now it's] 150 percent the opposite. It's sad. When I come home from the store and I get as far as say Highland Avenue and Pulaski Hwy my heart sinks cause I just don't know what I am going to face when I come home."
The odds are she'd come home to one of the hundreds of aggravated assaults and robberies reported to police last year.
But those numbers stitched together with other troubling trends.
According to statistics from Baltimore Neighborhood Indicator Alliance, seven percent of homes in Elwood Park are vacant, nearly 30 percent of school aged children are chronically absent and home ownership continues to plummet and struggles to break 30 percent.
These are key indicators experts say that point to a distressed community.
"That over time sort of results in an unraveling if you will of the core and fabric of the safety and stability of the neighborhood."
Debra Furr-Holden, Ph.D with Johns Hopkins' Bloomberg School of Public Health studies what makes a neighborhood rise or fall.
Baltimore she says provides a unique challenge. It is a city knitted together by the defined borders of small, independent neighborhoods which provides a patchwork for crime to move in and out with ease.
As one neighborhood fights for its streets, it often comes at the expense of the neighborhood just a few blocks away.
"If they could literally look across the landscape because to provide concentrated services in one aspect of say Patterson, will just displace the problem over 5 blocks and what's predictable is in 18, 24 months, the problem will come back to Patterson," said Furr-Holden.
A patchwork approach to a problem that could literally pull apart the quilt that is Baltimore city at its hundreds of seams.
A micro crime fight the city says knows is near sighted.
"If you look back at crime density maps and I usually look back about ten years and it has been an area that historically, has been an area of concern," said Director of the Mayor's Office on Criminal Justice Sheryl Goldstein.
So much so the city has tried before to pull together all the neighborhoods and associations in the larger area to fight the problem on a bigger scale.
That effort stalled as the federal support dried up in 2006, but the city says the latest criminal and social trends prove it must try again.
"What I think we have an obligation to do as government is to try to work with the smaller groups that are doing so much hard work in their neighborhoods to try and build their capacity and connect them to other likeminded people so that they can expand the impact they are having to reach a broader community. And that's an effort city hall plans on doing again in this area?] Yes, absolutely."
If not, residents like Helen Vello will continue to watch her small patch of Baltimore break away at the seams.
She's barely holding on to the threads now, but willing to fight for her neighborhood and the pride to once again to call it home.
"It's a constant insult to us. Why do you live there? Why do you stay? This is my home, that's why I'm here. That's why I continue to stay here, that's right."