Wednesday, December 19, 2007

People Come First at the I-Hotel 1972

International Hotel tenants and volunteers



The International Hotel is located on Kearny and Jackson Street. Built in 1907, the International Hotel has offered low-cost housing to retired farm workers, to the elderly on pensions, and to newly arrived immigrant families in desperate need of housing. Today, it is the home of approximately 130 Filipino and Chinese people, the majority of them elderly single men. As a group, they understand the oppression of this society, and many have suffered much, as this story shows.


It was a Thursday morning in Everybody’s Bookstore, and as I was attending to a customer, Bill Sorro from the I-Hotel rushed in. His brow was creased, but seeing that I was busy, he turned and hurried out. Within a couple of minutes, Judy Kajiwara, another Hotel worker, came in. She said that they needed a translator, that an old Chinese man was sick upstairs.

Hastily climbing a flight of stairs and arriving at Room 121, I found the Hotel staff already there trying to make things comfortable for the old man. We checked him for fever. He showed no temperature and his pulse felt normal. Someone said the old man was diabetic and hard of hearing as well. We asked him how he was, whether or not he had any aches or pains. After asking several times, he finally answered that he was alright. We then asked him if he had eaten. He nodded no. One of the staff members rushed out to the Star Lunch Cafe around the comer and came back 5 minutes later with some vegetable soup. By that time, the old man had sat up to show that he was alright. He put the soup aside and went to get his trousers which were draped on the chair by the side of his bed. I knew what he was doing but something stopped me as I wanted to watch this proud and noble old man. He was looking for his wallet and finally extracted it from his trousers. At that moment I interjected and said, “No, Uncle, the staff bought it for you.” He graciously thanked us and put his wallet back. The old man really had no money. He was very thin and showed signs he suffered from malnutrition.

Later, the I-Hotel staff discussed the situation and decided that in view of the old man’s diabetic condition he needed a check-up at the hospital and that it was better to send him there.

Worker at Everybody’s Bookstore