Evicted: Poverty And Profit in the American City

Is this circumstance? Is it personal choices, lifestyles? What spins the wheels in this cycle of poverty? Throughout focused personal tales, empathy is interrupted by statistics, and these stories are amplified by the trends they are a part of. A narrative of heartbreak, struggle, and failure may seem like a hard read. But Evicted finds a way to make a compelling story out of number crunched sociology on poverty. A lens is crafted by weaving interrelated story arcs: A woman fired for missing work, her child is in trouble at school. Another beaten by her boyfriend, she’s evicted when he kicks in her door. Pushed farther into crime ridden neighborhoods, farther from your job. The bus ride takes three hours each way, who’s watching our children? I have to sell drugs, can’t get no job with a record. A former nurse, now heroin addict, a man with a bad leg, a a couple’s car breaks down….all evicted. These evictions are not singular, rather they are so common, so ubiquitous, finding a new place quickly integral to stability. Built around these evictions are industries: movers, eviction courts, landlords, handymen, rent exchange, utilities, borrowed money, just $120 this week, I’ll have more tomorrow. Just one more day, I’ve got a new job, I’m not paid til Friday. I can work it off. Please.

This all seems like chaos. But the story is linear, and as time moves forward, as these lives start to intersect, we see a larger landscape form behind. We see a system, and within that system are smart, capable people. We walk their path. How profound is building a full life of another human! We can truly understand their choices simply because we make the same decisions with them!

Too often we judge others by the standards of our own lives. Too often our compassion is blocked by the circumstance we exist in rather than the circumstance that is built around them. When seeing precisely how these things happen, we journey with them, we can no longer tell ourselves “I would never let it happen to me.”

Beyond the curtain of condominiums and well kept suburbs, past the hip urban centers are a nation of neighborhoods: high cost, low quality rentals made for the poorest in our country. These low class dwellings are more profitable than middle class and even upscale neighborhoods, but require savvy in dealing with drugs, crime, domestic violence, and navigating all the problems of the poor. The markets are there, there is a never ending need for applicants that do not qualify for most rentals because of criminal history, having children, income, or, most ironically, poor rental history.

Through the seeming chaos our author builds a compartmentalized infrastructure, easily recognizable, easily solvable. How did he write this?

He lived it. He followed two landlords and multiple tenants for two years. He worked with them, he listened to their stories, he followed the tenants when they were evicted. He helped them moved. And afterword, he commissioned original research to follow up case studies with statistics. He built an entire panoramic and detailed view of poverty, how it relates to race, crime, gender, drug use, and mental health.

His conclusions are common sense policies that can be enacted on city, state, and federal levels, but are available only to those understanding the roots. Poverty issues have been ignored as long as they have existed, and perhaps more telling, many of these problems were created by well intended yet highly flawed policies to begin with. This relevant work will perhaps be a guide to solving problems that never needed to exist.