Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City


I greatly enjoyed reading Mathew Desmond’s book “Evicted.” This is a book I would definitely recommend to others to raise and heighten awareness of a growing problem that really should be easily fixable. Since I live in the Milwaukee area this book was somewhat surreal for me. It’s interesting reading a book that is written about the city you live in and when places are mentioned you know those places. I especially like the process of ethnography he used in his research work to understand people by allowing their lives to mold his own as fully and genuinely as possible by observing and experiencing what they do while working and playing alongside of them until he began to feel something like they feel. It is only when we live among those who we are seeking to help that we can truly understand how to help them.

For me, reading this book brought a new understanding to poverty and why it exists and the psychological, physical, and emotional challenges that comes from being evicted. As Desmond states, “Eviction does not simply drop poor families into a dark valley, a trying yet relatively brief detour on life’s journey. It fundamentally redirects their way, casting them onto a different, and much more difficult, path. Eviction is a cause, not just a condition, of poverty.

Through “Evicted,” Desmond presents a challenge that in many regards shouldn’t even exist, yet sadly does. But not without an intentional redesign of the reasons why the problem exists currently, it will be difficult to do more than manage the problem. Landlords like Sherrena and Tobin making exorbitant exploitive profit off those who have few other options is a large part of this challenge. Still there are thousands of questions that remain unanswered in truly repairing the conditions that have creates a system of exploitation of the vulnerable. As Desmond states, “If poverty persists in America, it is not for lack of resources.”



From Harvard sociologist and MacArthur “Genius” Matthew Desmond, a landmark work of scholarship and reportage that will forever change the way we look at poverty in America
In this brilliant, heartbreaking book, Matthew Desmond takes us into the poorest neighborhoods of Milwaukee to tell the story of eight families on the edge. Arleen is a single mother trying to raise her two sons on the $20 a month she has left after paying for their rundown apartment. Scott is a gentle nurse consumed by a heroin addiction. Lamar, a man with no legs and a neighborhood full of boys to look after, tries to work his way out of debt. Vanetta participates in a botched stickup after her hours are cut. All are spending almost everything they have on rent, and all have fallen behind.

The fates of these families are in the hands of two landlords: Sherrena Tarver, a former schoolteacher turned inner-city entrepreneur, and Tobin Charney, who runs one of the worst trailer parks in Milwaukee. They loathe some of their tenants and are fond of others, but as Sherrena puts it, “Love don’t pay the bills.” She moves to evict Arleen and her boys a few days before Christmas.

Even in the most desolate areas of American cities, evictions used to be rare. But today, most poor renting families are spending more than half of their income on housing, and eviction has become ordinary, especially for single mothers. In vivid, intimate prose, Desmond provides a ground-level view of one of the most urgent issues facing America today. As we see families forced  into shelters, squalid apartments, or more dangerous neighborhoods, we bear witness to the human cost of America’s vast inequality—and to people’s determination and intelligence in the face of hardship.

Based on years of embedded fieldwork and painstakingly gathered data, this masterful book transforms our understanding of extreme poverty and economic exploitation while providing fresh ideas for solving a devastating, uniquely American problem. Its unforgettable scenes of hope and loss remind us of the centrality of home, without which nothing else is possible.
Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City
NOTE: I received a free copy of this book for a fair and unbiased review.