Thursday, June 9, 2016

EVICTED by Matthew Desmond

This book was reviewed in WORLD magazine as well as CHRISTIANITY TODAY, and on a lark, I ordered a copy off of eBay immediately.  It was good reading.  The author, Matthew Desmond, spent months in the city of Milwaukee, interviewing members of eight families and two landlords.  EVICTED is the result of that research.  This is a style of non-fiction that I really enjoy.

This book causes the reader to look through a different lens at the problems of the inner city poor.  While still acknowledging that many of the miserable situations these people find themselves in are the result of their poor decisions, I found that there is another side--that of people who have no "leg to stand on," so to speak, to get out of their predicaments.  Landlords take up to 80% of the income of their renters.  And if there are problems in the apartments - major problems such as sinks and tubs that won't drain, leaky roofs, holes in walls - landlords won't fix the issues if tenants owe any back rent.  A municipal board is available for tenants to go to for mediation in these circumstances, but if a renter with any back rent due turns to this board, the landlord will then promptly evict him.  And anyone with an eviction on his record has a difficult time finding assistance to get a new place.  Meanwhile, the landlords go on vacations to Jamaica and other places.

The book has some objectionable elements in that it does recount some of the sinful situations and language used by people with little spiritual background.

The prescription to help the situation, according to Desmond, is more government.  Marvin Olasky (publisher of WORLD magazine and reviewer of the book) disagrees:

"Matthew Desmond’s Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City (Crown, 2016) is a well-reported, street-level view of people with messy lives who need compassionate help. Sadly, Desmond’s government-heavy policy prescriptions would help some but make things worse for most."

Desmond's writing style is excellent.  Once started, I found this a difficult book to put down, both because of the writing style and also because of the descriptions of lives very removed from mine.  It is also a strong reminder to a Christian reader that society without spiritual principles devolves until it is a mess with seemingly no way out.


Deb said...

I read that book too and found it very compelling. I agree with you that more government is not the solution, in fact some government policies helped the housing problem get worse! I do think that more middle class Americans should read books like this - some times I think that many of us have no real idea what living in poverty is like. This book gives a good snapshot and gives plenty of food for thought. Thanks and have a great weekend!

Ann said...

Deb--I think you are exactly right. And we do need more exposure. It has made me more compassionate and caused me to think about it all much more.