is sweating rent, and then there is not making rent.
latter is worse by far, because of the threat of
eviction and everything that follows.
is not a condition of poverty but a cause," said
Matthew Desmond, who researched and wrote "Evicted:
Poverty and Profit in the American City."
stable shelter, Desmond said recently, everything else
study the toll that eviction takes in the lives of urban
poor, Desmond, a Harvard University sociologist, spent
about 18 months in 2008 and 2009 living in two
low-income Milwaukee, Wis., locations: a trailer park
and rooming house.
tenants accepted him immediately; some wondered if he
was from children’s services. Eventually all of his
neighbors, faced with the more urgent task of getting
through the month, talked to him.
felt that writing about peoples’ lives was a heck of a
responsibility, and I wanted to know them in a deep
way," Desmond said.
estimates that while many Americans spend 30 percent of
their income on housing and related utilities, the
majority of poor renting families devote at least 50
percent to that, with some paying more than 70 percent.
once that nut cannot be met, bad things happen.
families are forced out of their permanent address,
children will be vulnerable to being removed from their
school. When looking for their next home, those same
families find it harder to find the next landlord.
lot of landlords won’t rent to families with a recent
eviction," Desmond said. "Evictions come with
a record, like a criminal record, and that record can
follow you around."
in working poor neighborhoods, the sight of an evicted
family’s chairs and tables on the sidewalk once was
considered rare, according to Desmond.
today eviction has become more routine. In Milwaukee,
which has about 105,000 renter households, landlords
evict about 16,000 adults and children each year. The
numbers, he writes, are similar in Cleveland, Chicago
and Kansas City, Mo.
he added, family furnishings will end up in storage
facilities, and families will begin missing payments on
biggest moving company in Milwaukee working evictions
told him that, in about 70 percent of the cases,
"the family’s possessions just go to the
to deal with all this takes a mental and spiritual toll.
have evidence that eviction actually causes job loss and
anyone who has been through an eviction knows why,"
experience can cause people to make mistakes on the job.
Mothers who are evicted show higher levels of depression
symptoms two years later."
was startled to learn that eviction, as a scholarly
topic, had received little attention. Under his
supervision, interviewers quizzed more than 1,000
tenants about rents and conditions.
those who are expecting a grim slog through data will be
surprised: "Evicted" reads like a novel, with
vivid dialogue and compelling characters.
see myself working in the tradition of sociology and
journalism that tries to bear witness to poverty,"
has placed his statistics in notes, and there readers
can find plenty of drama as well. Go to the notes on
Page 370, where Desmond breaks down the income and
expenses of a mobile home park owner and estimates that
during one year he cleared $446,635.
made a point of interviewing landlords.
are the people who literally own poor
neighborhoods," Desmond said. "I wanted to
understand them, too."
acknowledges that poverty today looks different than
during the Great Depression. He concedes that many
social service agency employees and volunteers have
devoted much of their lives to improving the quality of
life of poor renting families.
book even includes moments of uplift.
character wrestling with addiction gets accepted into a
stable housing program.
is evidence of how stable, affordable housing can be a
sure foothold into a life of sobriety and
stability," he said.
that is more the exception than the rule.
high cost of housing is crushing poor families and
sending them to a state of desperation," he said.