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This Chinatown family got invited to the White House—but they can’t afford to go

The four members of the Su family stand in their single-room occupancy home in San Francisco's Chinatown. | Courtesy the Su family

A low-income family from San Francisco’s Chinatown just got a special opportunity they never would have dreamed about.

The Su family, a family of four living in a small room in a single-room occupancy (SRO) building, has been invited to attend the 2023 White House Easter Egg Roll after the National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development fought to secure a spot for them.

“I am extremely happy,” mother Xiaoping Su told The Standard in Cantonese. “But we don’t know if we can afford to go.”

Su is the mother of two young daughters, ages 9 and 15, and works part-time as a front desk receptionist. Her husband, Shaoyuan Jiang, is a maintenance worker. They have lived in an SRO since they immigrated to the United States 11 years ago, and have never had a private restroom or kitchen of their own.

Su said her family pays about $700 a month for the 100-square-foot room, but it’s getting increasingly difficult because the daughters are growing up and space is limited. She said her daughters have to do their homework on the bunk beds.

The White House annual party, a longtime family-friendly tradition, typically hosts families from all over the country, and most of the selected attendees are lottery-based.

Chinatown Community Development Center, which works with SRO families in Chinatown, has launched a fundraising effort to help with the family’s potential expenses on airfare and a hotel, with a goal of $6,000.

Asked what they would want to speak to President Joe Biden or Vice President Kamala Harris about, Su’s answer was straightforward.

“More affordable housing,” she said. “I wish we could move out of our SRO one day.”

Han Li can be reached at

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