Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City is a book that really upset me. Matthew Desmond does an excellent job of looking into the issue of poverty, rent and the toll that eviction and high rents take on low-income families. The focus of the book is Milwaukee, where inner city poor spend up to 90% of the monthly income on rent.
Desmond follows a couple of landlords and some of their tenants over the course of a year or more. One landlord, Sheerena, is an African-American landlord who owns properties she rents to low income families. Her properties are typical of a slum. They plumbing doesn’t work, lights are missing, windows are broken. If the tenants complain about the condition of their property and a building inspector comes out, she evicts the tenants for complaining.
Tobin owns a trailer park in the low income white side of town where he rents dilapidated trailers to needy tenants, many of whom are on disability and/or drug addicts. He is slower to evict his tenants than Sherrena, but will do it. Tenants face tough choices of keeping the heat on during the winter months or paying rent or facing eviction.
This book is about gut-wrenching poverty, the kind most people know nothing of. This book is about how impossible it is to live when 80% of your income pays rent. The rest has to pay for food, utilities, clothes, shoes, etc. This book broke my heart.
People do not want to admit that one of the reasons that our country is falling behind in so many categories is because we have abandoned those who live in extreme poverty, describing them as addicts and people who do not want to work. It’s hard to hold down a job when you can’t afford bus fare. It’s hard to keep your grades up at school when you are hungry and cold and tired. And by allowing landlords to have substandard housing and charging so much for rent that is all tenant’s can afford, means that we are abandoning them to poverty. And crime. And drugs. We offer no way for people to rise from poverty and succeed when people cannot keep a roof over their head.
I wish all people who have no experience being poor and trying to find housing in the private housing market would read this book. It is eye opening and heart breaking. Desmond does, offer a solution to the problem. I don’t want to give too much away, but this book is worth reading. I really liked his style and was invested in people’s lives by the end.
I won this book from a Goodreads give away. I did not receive any compensation for my review and the opinions expressed herein are mine and mine alone.