Soth Chum Leader Spotlight

This Month’s Leader Highlight:   Soth Chum

soth-chumSOTH CHUM, Long Beach resident for 20 years, HLB leader for 1 year

What are your housing challenges?

I am living on a fixed income in a one-bed room apartment with four children.  I have seven grandchildren visiting, playing and staying at my house each and every day.  The rent is expansive for me to afford as I have little income to survive.  I spend about 90% of my monthly income on rent.

What would you like to see changed in Long Beach?

One thing I would like to see changed is that the City could recognize that people like me are a large part of Long Beach and that they would create more resources for my community.  I am a refugee from Cambodia and I am illiterate so it is challenging to find the resources I need, but I am invested in my community and hope to be able to live in a more affordable apartment and have a happier and healthier life.

How have you grown through your involvement with Housing Long Beach?

I have grown through HLB’s training, regular monthly meeting and events.  I have been able to share my housing needs, problems and challenges to other residents and even my own family through participating in the HLB documentary.  I have been able to meet with and express my concerns to my neighbors and others who have the same problems at HLB’s community meetings. I was so scared to share my housing problems at the beginning, but I am braver than I thought. I know now that it’s important to share my reality and work towards solutions with policy makers.

What skill has been most useful for you to learn?

Communication skills – I am more confident talking about my housing issues and challenges.  I learned how to talk to and greet others, express my needs through learning to share my story.  I understand the importance to working together to build a stronger voice.

What kind of work do you do for Housing Long Beach?

Participate in HLB’s regular monthly meeting and special events, participate in group discussion/meetings, share the lessons I’ve learned from HLB to my children and other residents, and invite residents to HLB’s meetings and events.

What is your favorite memory with Housing Long Beach?

My favorite memory is also my scariest memory – participating in the storytelling project to share my housing needs and challenges in the HLB documentary.  After the film, I stood on the stage at the Art Theater film screening with HLB’s staff, talking directly to hundreds of people.  But another favorite memory is getting my daughter Thida involved in Housing Long Beach’s works and activities.

How has your involvement impacted the City of Long Beach as a whole?

As I am illiterate, I don’t think I could make a huge impact to the whole city of Long Beach.  However, I strongly believe that more Long Beach residents got informed about housing issues through my little involvement and commitment.  At the least, all of my children now understand what I am doing and I have shared the information to some of my neighbors as well.

When did your passion for social justice come alive?

I didn’t know what social justice is until recently.  I never got involved in the activities like Housing Long Beach in the past at all, but I serve God and go to church regularly.  I am volunteering and participating with Housing Long Beach’s campaigns in the hope to be able to see that all Long Beach residents will be able to live in a decent and quality apartment/house with cheaper rent in the shortcoming future.