Lylia Fuentes is one of six local residents who shared her story for the film The Cost of Living: The Faces of the Housing Crisis in Long Beach, a 30-minute documentary aimed at telling stories of how Long Beach families are hard-pressed to find quality housing that is affordable.
“I’ve lived in Long Beach for more than 20 years,” Fuentes said. “I work on Ocean Boulevard and feel like my life is split in half– part of my day is spent in an area where there seems to be no suffering and everything is fine, and then I go home to my kids in our neighborhood that has so little resources. We pay our rent, pay our taxes, pay our bills…we pay all kinds of things. We pay the same as they do, and yet there is this difference.”
The project was launched as part of a larger storytelling project by Housing Long Beach, a local 501(c) 3 nonprofit that works to increase and improve the supply of affordable housing in Long Beach. Housing Long Beach will be screening the film throughout the city this month, to build public support for an upcoming vote by the City Council in October on the Housing Element, an eight-year plan that addresses local housing needs.
“We are an organization that fights for better public policy, but at our core we are all about the people affected by the issue,” said America Aceves, community organizer for Housing Long Beach. “The film project was a way to remind all of us that when we get into debates around what should be done by the City Council or any government body, we have to step back and remind ourselves that there are people and stories behind each and every issue. The Cost of Living film project intends to do just that– to reflect on the experiences of our neighbors and friends struggling to get by every day.”
The film has been a volunteer side project for 4th Street Productions, the team working with local resident Jorge Rivera on his two-year documentary project Sole Searching Long Beach. “We wanted to get involved because Housing Long Beach is doing the work that our film project is all about,” Rivera said. “When folks don’t have an affordable and quality place to call home, the costs aren’t just monetary. There are costs in a child’s education, in our neighborhood safety, in health and the overall well-being of a community– this affects all of us.”
Stories include that of one woman in a wheelchair who has lived for 10 years in an inaccessible apartment where she can’t use her own bathroom, simply because more modern wheelchair-accessible apartments are more expensive and out of her reach.
One young man who aged out of the foster-care system found himself homeless, with no safety net and nowhere to go.
Soth Chum is an elderly Cambodian resident who shared about her overcrowded living situation in the film. “I am a widow with seven children and seven grandchildren,” Chum said. “My husband passed away from cancer, and I live on a fixed income, so I can only afford a one-bedroom apartment that I share with seven of my family members. I felt privileged to be a part of the storytelling project and tell my housing testimony. I believe that my struggles are similar to many other people, and that by telling our stories we will be able to help get more affordable housing for Long Beach residents.”
The film’s screenings will be accompanied by a series of photos that residents took of their homes. The Cost of Living will be screened at the Expo Arts Center, 4321 Atlantic Ave. during the First Fridays Art Walk on Sept. 6 from 4pm to 8pm. It will also be shown: Saturday, Sept. 7 from 3pm to 8:30pm at the Cultural Arts Festival on the lot at Walnut Avenue and Anaheim Street; Saturday, Sept. 14 from 9am to 3pm at the Mariposa Festival at 737 Pine Ave.; Saturday, Sept. 21 from noon to 1:30pm at the Art Theatre, 225 E. 4th St., as a red-carpet premiere. Tickets for the premiere are available at housinglb.org/film .