‘Evicted’ Describes What It’s Like To Be Poor, Vulnerable

As I recently posted, years ago I realized I live in a very impoverished county. Despite this reality, some local organizations are in denial. In a December, 2017 article, the Preble County Economic Development Director detailed job openings and business investments being funneled into the county painting a rosy picture of Preble County.

She said,

“There is no better marketing strategy than the demonstration of a successful and thriving business climate.”

According to the article, the County will gain about 200 jobs, but the cost for 109 of the positions was more than $500,000 in state tax breaks and another $135,000 in incentives from the cash-strapped City of Eaton. So, it’s a mixed bag at best, but regardless it’s about selling who we are and the Director does not shy away from that.

Later in the article, she says.

Preble County is the fifth largest ag county in the state and we pride ourselves in our strong workforce and strong work ethic. These traits make it easy to market Preble County.

Make The Bums Work

Despite the marketing spin, a help wanted sign has been on display for more than 90 days at one of the companies — suggesting a labor pool problem. The manufacturing firm needs less than 20 new workers. Freedom Caucus Members Warren Davidson and Jim Jordan (see below) are convinced the able-bodied people on welfare are causing the labor shortage in the United States, but there may be another reason we can’t fill the openings. Legislators may have unnecessarily created felons in their rush to feed the private prison industry. And as these nonviolent offenders return home, they meet their first barrier to reentering society — employers who refuse to hire them due to their felony conviction.

Today (Monday, Jan. 7), in Eaton (pop. 8,200) 125 cases are on tbe Eaton Municipal Court docket. Preble County Common Pleas has 24 items and the County Jail has filled 66 of its 70 beds.

On Sunday, Jan. 7 Congressman Warren Davidson re-upped the link to an op-ed co-written last summer with fellow Freedom Caucus member Jim Jordan. The dynamic due is convinced if able-bodied persons on welfare were forced to work our labor shortage would be solved.

I tend to dismiss the validity of local public relation stories because if life is as good as they say it is, I would not see empty buildings or infrastructure in need of repair. I would not see a slow crawl to expand the local jail. Nor would I see the ‘are you addicted’ signs as outside groups swoop in to financially benefit from our drug problem. In a great place to live we would not accept the exploitation.

Hard Times In The ‘Greatest Country On Earth’

When I read Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond, which deals with poverty in Milwaukee, I noticed some of the same denial in the comments of Milwaukee’s gatekeepers and leaders. In Evicted, Desmond follows the lives of eight families as they ‘struggle to keep a roof over their heads.’ This engaging book received the Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction in 2017.

From my perspective the work accomplishes three things.

An Inside View Of Impoverished Life

Although there are eight families, Desmond does an excellent job balancing their stories. As their stories unfold, you can ‘see’ inside their homes and apartments, some quite filthy, and some filled with the aroma of marijuana. But, you can also see their attempts to pull out of their situation, only to be struck down by an unexpected bill, poor decision, or a landlord who arbitrarily decides to evict them for a late payment while letting a neighbor, who was also late, stay. You feel the loss of hope and insecurity as Desmond describes the ‘good, bad and ugly’ of their lives and communities.

Legal System All Messed Up

What I also enjoyed about the book was its balance. This is not a ‘poor renter’ book painting the landlord as an evil villain. Desmond creates a realistic image of the landlords’ plight as well. Although he does report a landlord’s willingness to kick out tenants, he also details the expense landlords incur in the process — destroyed or damaged property, court fees and inspections that can cost thousands. The reader quickly learns, though, that some landlords are better humans than their peers. Desmond helps uninformed readers, like myself, get a feel for how clunky, intrusive and ineffective the legal system is when dealing with the landlord-tenant relationship.

Lots of People ‘Just Doing My Job’

Those who have never faced evicted are probably unaware of the process. With just a few scenes Desmond brings it to life. The movers, including companies that specialize in evictions, invade a tenant’s home after they have been legally served by armed police officers. The movers, depending on legalities and landlord — and sometimes tenant wishes — sort through the belongings. Some of the stuff is sold, some stored, and a lot is ‘set on the curb.’ In one family’s story, the tenant hauls all her stuff to a neighboring house trailer because she knows the tenant is in the hospital. As the evictions occur, Desmond sprinkles in enough of the various comments from tenants, movers, and officers to show just how jaded they’ve become.

Don’t Skip The Ending

In some books, I skip epilogue-type content telling myself it’s nonessential. With this book the ‘after story’ is just as interesting as the book. Desmond goes into detail about the field work and his effort to not interfere with the subjects. He tried to keep the events naturally unfolding by staying in the background. I would also advise reading Amazon reviews — some of them come from people very close to the story — including Milwaukee Joe — who is critical of at least one of Desmond’s landlord depictions. However, Milwaukee Joe still gives the book a 4 out of 5 rating which, in my opinion, speaks to the book’s strength.

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars. This subject could easily be a boring ‘just the facts’ story. It’s not. As a reader you become vested in the outcome. The book is also a strong indictment against how the United States treats its poor. For those interested in policies, Desmond also details techniques for improving tenant-landlord laws in the U.S.

The gas station I used as a teenager has been abandoned for years. The empty building greets visitors as they enter the City of Eaton from the east.

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Categories: 8th congressional district, Books I have read, Life In A Red State, My America, Preble County, Understanding Trump Counties | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “‘Evicted’ Describes What It’s Like To Be Poor, Vulnerable

  1. This sounds fascinating, excellent review and look at what’s going on in your town too. I’ve avoided it despite it winning the Pulitzer because obviously I know it’s going to be troubling and depressing and I never felt quite ready for it. Based on your reading of it I know I need to give it a try, it sounds very important.

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