MILWAUKEE — A Pulitzer Prize-winning author says little has changed since he wrote a book about the eviction crisis in Milwaukee's poorest neighborhoods.
Princeton University professor Matthew Desmond won a Pulitzer Prize last year for his 2016 book "Evicted." He will visit Milwaukee May 16 for a public lecture, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported .
"I feel like we have a responsibility to talk about poverty as a relation to people and community instead of treating it like an isolated thing," he said.
Desmond embedded himself in the city in 2008 and 2009 to study the housing crisis. His book said that 16,000 adults and children were evicted annually because they fell behind on rent, the property was being condemned or landlord foreclosure.
There were more than 14,000 evictions filed in Milwaukee last year, up nearly 5 percent from the roughly 13,400 evictions filed in 2016, according to Legal Action of Wisconsin, which provides free legal services to low-income people.
"No one should find these eviction rates acceptable," Desmond said.
The eviction process can be very traumatizing, he said.
"It's completely devastating to have all your stuff placed out on the street," Desmond said. "You often have to move to a worse neighborhood; and on top of that you carry the blemish of an eviction on your record, making it hard for you to find safe and affordable housing again."
The Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin endowment has given the city a $10,000 grant to bring stakeholders together to find potential solutions to the eviction problem, said Mayor Tom Barrett. Stakeholders will study the eviction system and submit recommendations by the end of the year.
Desmond said the city should look into fixing inequalities in eviction court. Many people who face eviction court don't attend it because they don't have a lawyer, while landlords tend to have more experience in the court system.