“It is hard to argue that housing is not a fundamental human need. Decent, affordable housing should be a basic right for everybody in this country. The reason is simple: without stable shelter, everything else falls apart.” – Matthew Desmond, Evicted
What if I didn’t know where I would sleep tonight? How would I feel after calling dozens of landlords trying to find an apartment, and all of them saying no? What if I had children depending on me, but couldn’t find them a home or food? These were just some of the many questions swirling in my head while I was reading Matthew Desmond’s brilliant and powerful book, Evicted.
While plenty of authors explore poverty in the United States through policy analyses or personal narratives, Desmond’s combination of these styles is breath-taking. Winding us through the streets of Milwaukee, we immediately jump into the lives of landlords and tenants, parents and children, and learn about their inexplicable experiences trying to navigate their unfortunate, unjust, and unloving situations. I especially appreciated Desmond’s overwhelming reliance on personal narratives, with just a sprinkle of policy explanation, to show the clear implications of a housing and poverty system that provides very few opportunities for people to survive and thrive. Throughout this book, I found myself so connected with the individuals featured and simultaneously gaining a much better understanding of the system as a whole.
The stories of these individuals in Milwaukee are truly tragic, yet do not fit into the typically sad, poverty ridden story that too many people are tired of hearing. Desmond’s deep and trusting relationship with the individuals in the book show just how complicated people are, especially when in extremely intense situations.
One thing is clear after reading this book: we need to place housing at the center of an anti-poverty platform – I’m looking at you 2020 presidential candidates. When one has a house, one has at least some sense of security, safety, and stability. And those are all things that we deserve in this world.
Note: I wrote this review after receiving the book from the Blogging for Books program.