I hardly know what to say about this book. It was recommended to me several months ago by a friend who is a social worker.
Explaining what the book is about doesn’t fully capture the book. It’s case studies of the eviction culture in Milwaukee, WI. It tells the stories of the landlords and tennants at the bottom of the rental market in a moderate sized city.
It reads more like a story than a sociological study. These families trying so hard to keep their lives stable. Not even pull themselves out of poverty. Just know where they will sleep that night.
You see the cycle of unstable housing and so many other issues that plague this population. Children bumped from school to school (when they can even go). Eviction leading to unemployment. Unemployment leading to eviction. Eviction leading to health problems. Health problems leading to homelessness. Eviction leading to addiction. Addiction leading to homelessness.
But it also tells the story of the pain of the people stuck in this cycle. It wallows in the grey area. No one is blameless, yet you can hardly blame them when nothing they do seems to improve their situation.
The landlords are the same. Making money off the backs of the poor. Yet, also losing money when so many of the tenants fail to pay. Do they evict them and lose possible income or let them stay and see what they can get? Show mercy when families are hit with another disaster, or see the endless stream of disasters.
There are no easy answers, though the final chapter gives many conclusions about the need for affordable, stable, and safe housing for all.
As someone who works in this world, I know the horror of having little to offer between emergency shelters and the open rental market. Wait lists for Section 8 housing vouchers are 12 years long. AND THE WAIT LISTS AREN’T EVEN OPEN. Sorry to shout, but you can’t even get on the waiting list. People with Section 8 don’t want to get better jobs because then they will lose the housing they worked so long to get.
Something needs to change. This book shows the complexity of the situation and the horror of being caught in it. I highly recommend this book.