Our America: The Disproportionate Impact of Poverty on the Asian American Community of New York

NEW YORK — From “Crazy Rich Asians” to the myth of the model minority, there’s a stereotype that all Asian Americans are doing just fine financially.

But Asian Americans have some of the highest poverty rates in all of New York, where nearly one in four Asian Americans lives below the poverty line.

This myth of the model minority diverts essential funding from these communities, forcing some like Sang Ki Chun to take drastic measures just to survive.

VIDEO: Watch the trailer for ‘Our America: Asian Voices’

Every morning, he takes the bus from New York to the Sands Casino in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. It’s a two-hour trip each way, and he’s one of countless Asian American seniors who make the trip daily.

They don’t do it to gamble — they do it because when they get off the bus, the casino gives them a $45 credit. They sell it for $38 to another passenger who will use it to play, pocketing $18 each day after the bus fare has been deducted.

There are a dozen buses leaving for Sands Casino daily, almost always full to capacity. In each bus, more than half of the passengers do what Chun does. This means that every day there are more than 300 to 400 elderly people who take the bus for four hours each way and spend another five hours in this waiting room for the next return trip.

Some of them are homeless and all live below the poverty line.

“This story of the struggling population is not really being told,” said Ron Kim, a New York State Assemblyman who has fought to raise awareness.

According to the city’s most recent measure, Asian Americans in New York City have some of the highest levels of poverty of any ethnic group, at more than 1 in 5 people.

Figures for 2019 are not yet available. Imagine what the 2020 numbers will look like.

“They don’t want to come forward and admit, ‘I’m in a situation where I need a need. It’s a cultural barrier,” Kim said.

Proponents say part of the problem is that poverty in the community is often invisible.

“It’s the hidden homeless,” Chris Kui explained with Asian Americans for Equality. “They double and triple, living in these cabins that they share with 10 people in a one-bedroom apartment, for example.”

In the meantime, countless old people like Chun will continue to use these buses.

The question is, will anyone care?

Watch “Our America: Asian Voices” on your local ABC station, wherever you are: Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV and Roku.

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