Poverty and Profit in the American City

Book - 2016
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"[The author] 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 dollars 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"--Amazon.com
Publisher: New York : Crown Publishers, [2016]
Edition: First Edition
Copyright Date: ©2016
ISBN: 9780553447439
Branch Call Number: 339.4609 Desmond 2016
Characteristics: x, 418 pages ; 25 cm


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CMLibrary_sdeason Oct 04, 2017

Best nonfiction book this year. It compels you to appreciate the circumstances of other's lives.

Sep 20, 2017

Depressing, but yet triumph over hope as my take at the end. The book steers my view (reinforced after reading "The Glass Castle", "All Souls", "Hillbilly Elegy") on poverty/material-scarcity away from conservative-leaning.
Writing is intimate and lyrical, esp. for the bleak reality and tragic characters represented.
Final chapter "About the Project" provides details so essential on author's aspiration, unusual approach, and years' constant endeavor that I am deeply moved and willing to give the book the highest rating.

Statistical modelings of social study didn't reward my trying to comprehend the validity of data analysis, but I can bypass the academic hurdle to recommend to every adult in this country, wish more people have the (not only compassion) leisure (when not on a beach vacation) reading this book - a work deserve more-than-5-star.

AL_HOLLYR Aug 29, 2017

Well-written, deeply researched narrative of the housing crisis in one of America's poorest neighborhoods. A devastating but realistic account of homelessness and poverty in the U.S. today.

Aug 18, 2017

This book is about poverty and how eviction is a big impact on people's lives as they struggle to find affordable housing. Very eye-opening and profoundly written with valid data to support it. The author shows how many landlords are taking advantage of this situation by demand of market and making their tenants pay more than what a place is really worth because they know the tenants will pay for it. The tenants have no other choice. Many of those landlords don't put much effort into maintaining their property so many of those tenants suffer with things like broken windows, leaky water, hole in wall, lead paint, etc. Many of them fall behind on the rent and the landlords use that against them by refusing to comply with the needed repairs. The cycle continues after they are evicted and the next (desperate) tenants move in... There are also loopholes such as the landlords claiming their property costs more than the voucher the tenant has so the government/tax payers end up covering for remain of those costs. That costs us millions of dollars and it could be avoided if rules were set in place. It's a vicious cycle that many people are unaware of and the author suggests that changes be made so the poor people are not forced to live in terrible places and be taken advantage of.

Jul 19, 2017

A compelling study, written in the style of a gripping narrative, of the major role that eviction plays in trapping people in poverty. The book lays out in grim detail the human toll and misery at the bottom of the housing market, where poor people often have to spend 70% or more of their income on rent. I would put this book alongside Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickeled and Dimed and Linda Tirado's Hand to Mouth as a similarly illuminating investigation into the practical economics of poverty in the U.S.

kmscows Jun 30, 2017

A heart-wrenching account of poverty and the struggle to afford a place to live. Evicted is nonfiction but reads like fiction. Matthew Desmond thoroughly researched and immersed himself in the lives of eight families, in Milwaukee, who struggle to make ends meet and to keep a roof over their heads. An important read.

JCLLeeAnnB Jun 29, 2017

This book leaves a lasting impression. It is well-researched and hard to read but I highly recommend this important examination of the face of poverty in our nation.

May 25, 2017

This book made me take a stark look at lower income housing and the difficulties people face. It didn't try to paint these people as hardworking saints, but did take a look at being a victim of circumstance where it is almost impossible to turn things around when you live below the poverty line. It messed me up for a whole day and made me talk to people around me about the housing issues in America. Although I felt the ending proposal a bit too much for our society in its day and age (and wished the policy proposal was a bit more fleshed out than it was), I would definitely recommend this book to others to help them have a better understanding about what it's like to be poor in a major city in this day and age.

May 22, 2017

Well written and terrifying.

The people who need help the most are sometimes the least likely to receive it. There are many hoops to jump through to get affordable housing. Make one mistake and you are out! And if an eviction makes it onto your record then good luck finding a place to live.

If you are poor in America, you have the deck stacked against you in so many ways. The people who can afford it the least are forced to pay high rents, late fees and other penalties for just being poor.

May 05, 2017

What a powerful account of life in the inner city tenements of Milwaukee - which could well be of anytown U.S.A. It is hard to believe that people scrounge to find accommodation like this in one of the richest countries in the world. "The poor did not crowd into slums because of cheap housing. They were there simply because they were allowed to be." Incarceration defined Black men and eviction, women. The foreclosure crisis hit tenants too since one in two foreclosures was renter occupied. Landlords who had money now had an almost magical opportunity to make millions. The book gives a lot of scary statistics but what hits home is the heart rending account of women and children who in the grip of poverty find themselves homeless when they are evicted.

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Apr 20, 2017

If incarceration had come to define the lives of men from impoverished black neighborhoods, eviction was shaping the lives of women. Poor black men were locked up. Poor black women were locked out.

Apr 20, 2017

There are two freedoms at odds with each other: the freedom to profit from rents and the freedom to live in a safe and affordable home.


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Apr 20, 2017

Between 2007 and 2009, the American housing market was shaken by the subprime mortgage crisis, in which banks foreclosed on millions of homeowners who could not keep up with their rapidly inflating mortgage payments. But another group of people is deeply affected by the trauma of displacement on a more regular basis: the renting poor. Many of these families are spending between fifty and seventy percent of their monthly income on housing, and even a small crisis can easily cause them to fall behind on the rent, making them subject to eviction. Sociologist Matthew Desmond takes the reader into two of Milwaukee’s poorest neighbourhoods, one predominantly white, the other mostly black, and spends eighteen months examining what happens when landlords evict those who have fallen behind on the rent.


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