With few options and facing eviction, elderly renters fight for what they’ve got

Written by and

Mrs. Yeung, 86, has lived in this 120-square foot room for more than 16 years. She has a son nearby with whom she could live as a last resort, but she’s afraid that doing so would compromise her independence: “What I love most is my freedom. If I want to eat, I eat. If I want to go out, I go out. In the morning I go do some exercises over in Lincoln Park and sometimes I take the bus around the city… All those things keep me happy.”(Photo by Bear Guerra)

"SRO" stands for Single Room Occupancy, and is a low-cost living arrangement in which bathrooms and a kitchen are shared by the tenants. Rooms are small, and frequently, buildings are only minimally maintained by the landlord - if at all. But tenants rarely complain out of fear of losing the only housing they often can afford on limited incomes. (Photo by Bear Guerra)

The average rent in LA is over $2,000 a month. But at this Lincoln Heights SRO, elderly residents have been paying under $400 a month for decades. It’s cheap for a reason: The building is old and not very centrally located, and residents have to share bathrooms and a kitchen.

They are now facing eviction. Most of the people who live here don’t speak English, and many have nowhere to go. While spending a day with long-time resident Mrs. Yeung and her neighbors it became clear that facing eviction meant a level of instability and fear that none of these seniors was prepared for. Now they’re learning how to fight back.