March 9th: “Evicted, Poverty and Profit in the American City”
I recently finished reading “Evicted,” by Matthew Desmond.
I wondered if the book would hold my attention since it is a work of non-fiction. I was pleasantly surprised. The book gripped me from the beginning and did not let go.
The author takes us on a journey through the poorest areas in Milwaukee during 2008 and 2009. He introduces us to eight families and we get to know each person very well as he captures their honest conversations about where they live, how they live, why they live where they do, their landlords, their fears, tears and how some use the system while others truly need societal support.
He shows us how, even in the poorest neighborhoods, communities exist where members watch out for each other. Desmond shows us the seedier side of people too as some community members feed on the despair and misfortune of others by ransacking their trailer or apartment while they are in court for an eviction hearing, in the hospital recovering from various issues and how taking from others in these situations is a matter of survival of the fittest.
We meet the landlords and listen to their perspective on rents, repairs (or lack thereof), how they feel about their tenants and how the only concern they have is how to wring profit from their extremely distressed properties by exploiting their tenants.
What I found so distressing is how these eight families feel this is all they deserve. Poverty was and would continue to be a way of life. They could not see a way out. Their landlords treated them worse than they would some animals by letting tenants live in unsanitary and dangerous conditions. Many families in these areas are forced to take what they can find due to their limited income from SSI or other government programs. Landlords know this and take advantage by charging high rent for what the tenant gets. What the landlord presents as an acceptable apartment or trailer for a family to rent may have windows broken out, no running water, backed up and plugged toilets and sinks, rotting floors, maggots or roaches throughout. There is nothing sanitary or respectable about these places.
Landlords in these poor areas tell tenants that they don’t fix things because, “you don’t appreciate it and don’t know how to take care of nice things.” This leads tenants to start questioning their self-worth. Their self-esteem is already in the negative and being treated like they are less than human does nothing to bolster that self-esteem. So the cycle is perpetuated. If tenants complain they are threatened with or are actually evicted. Eviction is always a concern of the tenant. Landlords evict tenants for calling police when a crime is being committed, an ambulance to help a child with asthma, or registering a complaint with building inspectors or any kind. They don’t want any attention drawn toward their property because it could result in a citation to fix up the unlivable space and that cuts into profits. Landlords so easily evict tenants in these poor areas because they know there is another needy low-income tenant waiting for shelter. So, tenants don’t speak up for fear of eviction.
While the author focused on the poorest areas in Milwaukee, the poverty portrayed in this book can be found in every major city in the United States. I don’t know what we can do about the landlords who treat human beings so poorly and believe that it is ok or tenants who don’t give a damn. I just know something in society has to change.
March 2nd: Selfish
“devoted to or caring only for oneself; concerned primarily with one's own interests, benefits, welfare, etc., regardless of others.”
I awoke today feeling a bit disappointed in human kind. I don’t like this feeling. I had an epiphany over the last week. Many people are quite selfish.
Do you know people who think only of themselves? When you get together for a friendly chat over tea or coffee is the conversation not really a two-way exchange but a diatribe about how difficult, tedious, busy, glorious, their life is with little regard for what is happening in your life? I have had this happen many times. I give the other party the benefit of the doubt thinking they will eventually demonstrate an interest in what is happening in my life. Sometimes it happens but often it does not. I choose to state here and now that these people are not true friends but showboat friends. They act like they care for show; to get in God’s good graces, to show others how sensitive they are towards others’ feelings, to make themselves feel good inside, but they don’t honestly care – not really.
A person who really cares reaches out in good and bad times, whether they are in a good or bad mood and they are genuinely interested in you and your life. I find these genuine friends are rare. That is probably why I have few really good friends and many acquaintances.
I value my friends and the relationship I have with each one of them. I would do anything for a true friend. My friends are people I have cared about for a long time, some going back 50 plus years. They don’t take advantage of our friendship. We support one another. Conversations are just that – conversations about our lives – the good, the bad and the ugly.
I see people taking advantage of others all the time. The selfish nature of people will always bother me. But, I can choose not to engage with these people and keep my life filled with people who care about me and me about them. You should do the same. It will be a step toward purging toxicity that can permeate all aspects of your life.