Chinatown is one of San Francisco’s densest neighborhoods, forcing many to live in cramped single-room occupancy hotels known as SROs. The Chinatown YMCA has developed a program to help families in SRO housing build a sense of community with others facing similar circumstances.
Dinnertime is stressful for Ruiyi Li, a married mother of two who lives in San Francisco’s Chinatown.
She has to wait in line for almost an hour to use a communal kitchen in the building where her family rents a single room for $400 a month.
Then there’s the problem of how to eat the meal. The family’s tight dwelling is slightly wider and longer than the size of a double bed, with no space for a table. Li, her husband, son and daughter must sit one next to the other on the edge of the lower half of a bunk bed, balancing bowls in their laps.
“Dinner is quick and fast,” Li says using the dialect spoken in her southern Chinese hometown of Toishan. “It doesn’t even feel like the family is eating together.”