Review: Desmond’s Evicted

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City

Matthew Desmond

An examination into how housing insecurity leads to general insecurity and upends lives. A brilliant book. It follows a number of different people in the Milwaukee area struggling with housing issues and uses their stories, and plenty of social science, to tell explain the way housing in this country keeps the poor, poor, and communities segregated by race and class.

Books like this, where a reporter/social scientist parachutes into a poor community and comes out with a heartbreaking story can often feel exploitative. To me, this one never did. Desmond lived amongst the people he chronicles here, and it shows. He treats their predicaments with a bit of distance, for sure, but also with a level of compassion and humanity I found admirable. In the notes at the end, Desmond explains that not only did he know these people, live in their neighborhoods, eat in the their homes, but he also at times lent them money and supported them. That might cross some social science rules, but I found it humanized the situation and, frankly, was the right thing to do.

We talk a lot about the housing crisis in this country, but never have I seen anyone examine exactly how it works, and how clearly we could create a world in which it didn’t leave people broken and desperate. I left this book convinced that the housing situation in this country is both horrific and preventable. We just need the national will to change things.


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