As I began reading Evicted my first thought was – Wow, I didn’t realize that evictions are part of a growing industry, that there is money to be made from evicting people from their homes. I appreciated that the Matthew Desmond didn’t assign blame either to the families or the individual landlords or those who are paid to dump the belongings onto the sidewalks (who are in some cases evictees themselves), or those who operate the storage units (where there are exorbitant fees to be paid when someone wants to reclaim their belongings). I was shocked to read that in Milwaukee the difference between the rent for a poorly maintained apartment in a low income neighborhood and the rent paid for a “nice” apartment in a middle class neighborhood, is only a couple of hundred dollars a month. Except that the poor don’t have access to those nicer apartments. And, I am in awe of the fortitude of the families depicted so compassionately in this book, who ask for so little, starting over again and again, moving from hope to hopelessness, from housing court to eviction, homeless shelter to apartment, and back around again.
I live in New York City where 64,464 people are now living in shelters, including 23,929 homeless children, and thousands more on the streets. I live just steps away from a public housing complex where nearly 5,000 people live in 2,000 apartments in 17 buildings. It is one of dozens of public housing sites in this city in which over half a million people have had a chance, for many years, to have stable homes. But the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) has begun selling its buildings, parking lots and playground spaces to private developers who will put up new buildings that the poor cannot afford to live in. Evictions have already begun, and surely NYCHA’s callous “Next Generation” plan, if carried out, will eventually destroy public housing and will leave many more thousands of men, women and children stranded.
I am really angry about this. I am a member of the Committee for Independent Political Action, which, under the leadership of Dr. Lenora Fulani, is organizing tenants and others to fight back. The City doesn’t have to take this route, but, as in Milwaukee and elsewhere, there is little political will among the politicians to support decent housing for the poor. As Matthew Desmond asserts in this wonderful book, it would be less expensive to provide a housing voucher for every low income family in America than it is to maintain homeless shelters and the apparatus that evicts people from their homes.
I know that most ordinary New Yorkers strongly oppose NYCHA’s plan. And this is a stark example of what happens when we the people have no opportunity to impact public policy. That’s why I have also worked for many years with the NYC Independence Clubs and IndependentVoting.org, which are fighting to restore a democratic decision-making process to our country. At our popular Talkin’ Independence events, which I coordinate, people from every walk of life are talking about why it is so important for the people, not the political parties, to have the power to decide about housing and other critical issues.
Harriet Hoffman is a consultant specializing in grant writing and helping people maximize their Medicare and social security benefits. She is the coordinator of the popular monthly independent volunteer gathering, Talkin’ Independence, a program of IndependentVoting.org and the New York City Independence Clubs
Natesha Oliver (l) with Cathy Stewart and Politics for the People member, Cheryl White (r) National Conference of Independents, NYC, March 2015
It is a challenge for Me to put in words My thoughts on Matthew Desmond’s book Evicted. I have a lot of things going through My mind, The attitudes of the Landlords and how they lived lavished lives while making money off the desperation of others. They may not have contributed to the onset of their tenants conditions yet they sure as hell didn’t do anything to alleviate their tenants’ condition even when it came to maintaining their property. And how they would knowingly watch the property deteriorate and still allow people to live in their squalor, and this is where I am most conflicted because could the Landlords have prevented the deterioration, I don’t know, this truly bothers Me the most.
What the children have to endure when living like that is nothing short of disturbing and when they act out evictions were cold and swift, another confliction because who wants to pay for damage caused by someone else’s child.
Knowing that these properties were purchased with the intent to house impoverished people for profit is truly disturbing.
For the sake of time and sanity I will end with this quote by Matthew Desmond:
“This degree of inequality, this withdrawal of opportunity, this cold denial of basic needs, this endorsement of pointless suffering—by no American value is this situation justified. No moral code or ethical principle, no piece of scripture or holy teaching, can be summoned to defend what we have allowed our country to become”.
Natesha Oliver is the founder of MIST, Missouri Independents Stand Together. She lives in Kansas City.
Politics for the People Conference Call
With Matthew Desmond
Sunday, October 23rd at 7 pm EST
Call In Number: 641 715-3605
Access code 767775#