2016 is an election year. Thus, we are hearing a lot about what America “needs.” One thing that is often overlooked is those in poverty. Political rhetoric is generally aimed towards middle-class Americans. Therefore, it is rare for the poorest of us to have a voice, but Matthew Desmond found a way.
When someone is described as “poor,” my mind automatically assumes that person is homeless with no job. However, these notions have been erased thanks to “Evicted.” Many working Americans face extreme hardship because of housing. Desmond points out that poor Americans spend more than 70% of their income on housing. This is alarming considering how little money is left over for them to spend afterwards.
Through the stories Desmond has told, the needs of the impoverished are highlighted. Whether it is a story about a handicapped unable to find stable employment, those struggling with addiction, or even those just struggling to get by, Desmond allows us to see the world through the eyes of people who face eviction.
To me what separates this piece of scholarship from statistics is the pathos it evokes. Unlike many authors who write from the outside of a difficult situation, Desmond immersed himself into the lives of those struggling with housing. Without Desmond’s willingness to experience the adversities firsthand the book may have lost its authenticity. Furthermore, being able to follow families for weeks before and after eviction helped paint a much clearer picture of how difficult the process is.
This is the first piece of scholarship I have read that exhibits the parallelism between poverty and housing. They are so deeply intertwined it is surprising it is not discussed more in society. Housing is the most basic of all the needs humans have; therefore, without it everything else becomes exponentially harder. For example, kids who grow up facing eviction are going to struggle in school more often than those who do not. Furthermore, it makes it harder on adults to save their money for other necessities if they are funneling it all to their landlord.
If I had to guess, most people who read “Evicted” would agree that there is an imminent dilemma facing America. It is seldom brought up, but it is imperative there is change in the housing for America’s poorest citizens. Now that Desmond has highlighted it is time for the government and other citizens to take action. Whether it is policy changing the systematic barriers that make housing more difficult or wealthier Americans giving to those in need, it is time for action.
Desmond, Mathew. Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City. Crown, 2016.