By, Kelsey Lorraine Smith
Professor, author and codirector of the Justice and Poverty Project Matthew Desmond gave a speech on the complex topics of poverty and profit in American society Thursday, Oct. 19 in Schofield Auditorium to a crowd of about 600. His remarks touched on how eviction rates are increasing in the U.S. and specifically how Arleen Beale’s latest eviction began with a snowball fight.
When Arleen was evicted from her apartment on Arthur Avenue, she was receiving a stipend from Wisconsin Works, a family-aid program—a reduced amount, because she wasn’t working.
In addition to sharing Beale’s story, Desmond said he tried to put himself in the shoes of these people in America to get a better understanding of what living in poverty is like. Desmond went on to say that he lived in a trailer park on the southside of Milwaukee.
“Poverty starts on the ground, and ends on the ground.” said Desmond
Desmond moved to Milwaukee to live among the poorest people in one of the world’s richest countries. First, he lived in a mainly white trailer park and then, until the end of 2009, in a rooming house in the black north side. Desmond documented the obstacles poor people had in keeping a safe foundation around them.
Troubled by poverty, strangers become roommates to endure then divide just as quickly when arrangements become indefensible. Desmond said these relationships are often made difficult by the presence of landlords who make significant wages on inner city properties.
went on to say that individuals in poverty are trapped because they are already at the bottom and can’t get cheaper housing unless they relocate their lives, quit their jobs and leave the city. Those with eviction records are pushed into substandard private housing in high-crime neighborhoods because many landlords and public housing authorities turn them away.
When families finally find a new place to rent, they start off owing their landlord because they can’t pay the first and last month’s rent and a security deposit.
“Some spend 70 percent of their income in housing” said Desmond.
Desmond went on to say that the National Housing Act of 1937 believed that families should spend no more than 30 percent of their income on housing costs. Until recently, most renting households in the United States have met this goal.
“Utility costs have jumped as well. Since 2000, the cost of fuels and utilities has risen by over 53 percent, owing to increasing global demand and the expiration of price caps.” said Desmond
“Desmond has to be repeated in every single city. We as a nation really don’t care about poor people.” said Cathy Sultan of Eau Claire
715-839-9298 (Cathy Sultan)