In San Francisco, you may see Chinese seniors walking around, looking inside trash cans for aluminun cans and glass bottles. It is a disturbing site for me because they speak my language and they are from the same region as my ancestors. These seniors could just as easily be my parents or aunties and uncles. I know they are doing it because they need to make ends meet and the desire to keep their independence instead of relying on the government or their children. But these scenes are getting too common in San Francisco. The downturn in the economy has caused fierce competition in the area for this type of work. Violence is also a factor. Now, a new law is also making their work more difficult.
A recent article described the beating of an 80-year-old grandmother by three men who was collecting cans in her Oakland neighborhood:
The woman, Yue (her family requested that police officials not release her last name), collected the cans for spending money, police said. She was kicked, punched and beaten with her pole. When the thugs finished abusing her, they stood over 103-pound Yue and laughed, police officials said. Yue has been released from an Oakland hospital and is now under 24-hour care at a home.
"When I get a report like this, I assume it has happened already to somebody else who for whatever reason didn't want to report it," said Officer Alan Yu, who serves as police liaison to Oakland's Asian community. "They're older, they can't speak English and they probably won't call the police and they probably won't be able to identify their attackers. So this work is very, very dangerous."
Anni Chung, CEO of the nonprofit group, Self-Help for the Elderly offers the seniors she see information and services about how her organization can help. However, they tell her that "this way of life is the only way they can maintain their independence and not be a burden on their adult children."
"You have to give them credit -- They're not begging or panhandling; they're hardworking," said Chung. "Recycling becomes money in these tight economic times."
Photo courtesy of kingsdesmond1337