Despite a statewide moratorium on evictions, many Chinatown tenants are fighting to keep their homes. They’re getting support from a volunteer organization called CCED — Chinatown Community for Equitable Development — that’s focused on organizing and empowering Chinatown tenants.
Before the pandemic hit, Chinatown lost its last full service grocery store. “There was a concern with where our tenants were going to get their groceries. We had some tenants tell us they would bus all the way to San Gabriel Valley to get their groceries, which during the pandemic was not going to work, said volunteer and community organizer, Isabella McShane.
When the pandemic hit, Councilman Gil Cedillo teamed up with the Chinatown service center to deliver hot meals to seniors. Unfortunately, that program did not last long, and McShane and her friend took matters into their own hands. “We started making the meals on our own, hoping that the meal program would come back. And, we were making over 100 meals twice a week. A month went by and we figured that the program was not going to come back,” added McShane.
In an effort to keep helping the community McShane says she reached out to more volunteers to help make meals. “We teamed up with API Forward Movement and they provided a lot of the groceries for us. So, there were around five-pound grocery bags. After a while we decided we had enough funds to buy groceries from two smaller grocery stores in Chinatown, and we give out groceries every two weeks. We also give out supplies like gloves, masks — all the PPE stuff that was hard to find in the beginning.”
CCED started when Walmart was trying to come into Chinatown. “In 2012, we gathered with a lot of community folks who were concerned about this issue. We ended up doing a lot of door knocking back then and then found out that people were also facing evictions, rent increase and other housing issues,” said Co-Chair of Small Business Community, Sophat Phea.
There has been a lot of talk about the spike in Asian violence that has been occurring in the community, but McShane says there has been a different kind of violence present in Chinatown. “Violence can mean a lot of different things; evicting people is violence. People displacing tenants is violence. Getting rid of our resources like hospitals and grocery stores — that is violence on the community. And, I think it is really important that everybody understands that.”
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