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Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond

Eviction is not an easy topic nor one many want to read about, but Harvard Professor of the Social Sciences Matthew Desmond dives into the subject in his new book entitled by the same name.  Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City takes a deep look into those being evicted, landlords, and the history of how Milwaukee was at once a booming place for good jobs but over time it gave way to poverty, crime, and drugs.  Desmond looks at the way struggling members of Milwaukee, both in apartments and in mobile homes struggle to make ends meet, often coming up with creative solutions to meet their rents, working jobs for the landlords. 

One example of this struggle to make rent is the story of Lamar, a dishonorably discharged Navy veteran who lives in his small apartment with his sons, playing cards at all hours of the night.  Sharrena, Lamar’s landlord was betting on Lamar making the cut for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for those with mental and physical disabilities, but Lamar didn’t make the cut twice.  Now, after years of working different jobs in janitorial to forklift driver, having lost both legs, Lamar was up against some heavy odds (24).  After taking advantage of Sharrena in a botched paint job, Lamar was still short over $200 on his rent, coming up short thirty dollars again on his rent in the month written about.  All of the factors are at work here in the life of Lamar, former drug abuse, sons needing care but getting into cards and other activities, while Lamar cannot find a steady, good paying job in the area in which he lives. 

Another fascinating aspect of the book was the movers involved with evicting renters.  Sheriffs would have to meet the moving crews at the location and make sure they were in the right place.  “Sheriff John liked to say, “The first rule of evictions in never open the fridge (114).”  At other times, the mess was left for the landlord to clean up, a task worth more than the meager money she or he was paid by the owners.  At times the renters were home, but often they were not, knowing their fate before movers were at their residence.

At one time, Milwaukee was one of the most segregated cities in America, being divided between North and Side sides, both economically, but also racially.  This book is a fine expose on poverty, the effects of evictions on renters, and on the perspective from the landlord.

Thanks to Blogging for Books and Crown for the copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


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