At the height of the recession, doctoral candidate Matthew Desmond moved into a mainly white trailer park on the edge of Milwaukee. The following year, he moved into a rooming house on the north side of town in a primarily African American neighborhood.
Like a fly on the wall, Desmond documented a rising tide of evictions, showing how losing one’s home impacts families, landlords and neighborhoods.
The book that emerged, “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City,” won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction.
In an interview with the Southern California News Group, Desmond described the toll evictions take on the communities in which they occur.
Here are some excerpts:
Q Evictions are going down steadily in Southern California. Is that occurring elsewhere in the nation?
A We don’t know if it’s happening everywhere. We are in the midst of an enormous data gathering effort to collect eviction (data) across the country. We’re doing that through court systems and looking at formal eviction rates, and we see a lot of different things.
We see stability in some cities, we see increases in evictions in some cities and we see decreases in some cities.
So the question is why, and the answer is, I don’t know yet.
Q What is the cost of evictions? How do they impact communities, landlords, tenants?
A Let’s start with tenants.
Evictions can cause loss. Families not only lose their homes, but often they lose their possessions, which are piled up on the street or taken by movers, and a lot of families can’t afford to get it back, to get their things back.
Kids lose their schools. You lose your community. So it’s very destabilizing.
Since evictions go through court, it has a record that comes with it, and many landlords that I spend time with use that as a big screening mechanism. And that’s really the reason, we think, families are pushed into worse housing and worse neighborhoods after their evictions.
Families who get evicted tend to live in…