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Community Spotlight:

The Quest for Affordable Housing

After 33 years of waiting for affordable quality housing, Ms. Mui Wong and the Chinatown Resource Center have something to celebrate!

Mrs. Wong and her family immigrated to New York City in 1974 from Hong Kong. Although she initially did not have official status, her hard work and diligence were recognized immediately while working at a Chinatown garment factory where the employer sponsored her immigration. In 1975, Confucius Plaza, at the intersection of Canal Street and the Manhattan Bridge, was developed and where her husband placed a housing application. Ms. Wong worked for 28 years as a seamstress, where she could make as much as $5.00 an hour if she had enough “soy sauce chicken” pieces that were quick and easy to assemble, unlike “pork bones” that required more time per piece and yielded as little as $1.00 an hour. Mrs. Wong worked long, hard hours to support her family - especially when her husband passed away at an early age from diabetes - only to return home to an old Chinatown apartment that was roach infested and had an unsteady staircase.

Once Mrs. Wong retired eight years ago she came to the CRC to learn English. So Lan Liang, the CRC’s Director, recalls her first interaction with Mrs. Wong; “she was always a good student who was easy going, happy and excited to learn.” Once Ms. Wong felt comfortable asking for more in-depth assistance, Mr. Liang started assisting Mrs. Wong in her search for housing. In 2004, the CRC began assisting with new applications and relentlessly following up with the Confucius Tower management company to update her application; she no longer needed a two bedroom apartment since her husband passed away and her daughter no longer lived at home. Then, in early May, 33 years after Mr. and Mrs. Wong submitted an application, she received a phone call saying that an apartment was available. She can only compare how she felt the day she found out about the 600 square foot, bright, and clean apartment to the way it must feel win the Lottery. After 73 years of life, she finally feels at peace and that she can enjoy the fruits of her labor. Luckily, the apartment is only $350 per month!

It is fitting that the Center’s and Mrs. Wong’s determination and persistence ends happily. The Chinatown Resource Center played a crucial role in helping to improve her housing situation; it is also rare that individuals call the CRC with good news. Mrs. Wong’s daughter remarked, “Thanks for your assistance and hard work for my mom and for others in the community. I hope you'll have more of these rewarding in the years to come.”

Upon being invited into Mrs. Wong’s home, one is struck by her cheer and hospitality; you immediately feel like part of her family. There is even a photo among her family photos of Mrs. Wong at the Chinatown Resource Center with fellow ESOL classmates and staff. We like to think of Mrs. Wong as part of the Hamilton-Madison House family as well.

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