The Castaway Elders: Living Alone and Poor

Mar. 12, 2014 / By

New America Media, Profile, Viji Sundaram

Photo: Brenda Washington in her tiny room, its shared bathroom down the hall. (Paul Dunn/Central City Extra) Click to see the entire Special Report, “Old and Poor in Tech City.”

SAN FRANCISCO – Somehow, the dozen or so hats piled atop Brenda Washington’s wardrobe and those hanging from hooks on her apartment walls initially draw a visitor’s gaze away from all the other items that clutter her 8 x 10-foot room.

Hats, some of them rather fancy, are the last things you’d expect to see in such profusion in a room where someone clearly lives in dire straits. Washington’s closet is crammed with clothes. “I paid a lot for some of them, like my London Fog,” she says of a coat. “I dress for success. Is there anything wrong with that?”

But signs of better times are few for Washington, 64, who says she hates living alone in a Central City single-room occupancy (SRO) hotel room.

Her room is on the third floor of the Raman Hotel, an 80-unit building, with shared hallway bathrooms.

Senior Poverty Increasingly Common

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New America Media is the country's first and largest national collaboration and advocate of 3,000 ethnic news organizations. Over 57 million ethnic adults connect to each other, to home countries and to America through 3000+ ethnic media outlets, the fastest growing sector of American journalism. Founded by the nonprofit Pacific News Service in 1996, NAM is headquartered in California with offices in New York and Washington D.C., and partnerships with journalism schools to grow local associations of ethnic media.