“Before coming here from China, I thought that American homes were large, beautiful and luxurious, from the television,” says Christina, a mother who’s newly single after leaving her abusive husband.
She’s crouched on the floor, helping her young daughter get dressed for the day inside their single-room home in San Francisco’s Chinatown. In the 80-square-foot room, piles of folded clothes crowd against a mattress, jammed next to a shelf stacked with toys, boxes, a cooking pot. The bathroom is shared, down the hall.
“Had I known the living conditions here,” she says in Cantonese, “I wouldn’t have decided to come to the U.S.”
Christina and her daughter are just two of the more than 20,000 people who currently live in San Francisco’s single-room occupancy hotels, commonly referred to as SROs. Theirs is one of five households at the heart of Home Is a Hotel, a poignant, powerful documentary about SRO residents from Bay Area filmmaker Kevin Duncan Wong, with co-directors/producers Kar Yin Tham and Todd Sills. Following the film’s premiere at the San Francisco International Film Festival — where it won both the juried Documentary Feature Award and the Audience Award — it makes its non-festival debut at the Roxie Theater on Aug. 17. A second screening at the Roxie is scheduled for Aug. 28.