There’s No Place Called Home for the Evicted – Thoughts prompted by Evicted by Matthew Desmond

Archie and Edith at homeTake a good look at the photo of Archie and Edith Bunker. Look long and hard. If you are old enough to remember the multi-year, multiple Emmy-award winning program All in the Family, this is the image you most remember. Archie and Edith, in their chairs… — Archie, especially, in his chair — at home.

Home. At home. It’s where we most want to be. Home.

“There’s no place like home,” said Dorothy. She wanted to meet the Wizard just so she could go home. “Home is where the Heart Is” sang Elvis in Kid Galahad.

Home. At home. It’s where we most want to be. Home.

Consider this description of “home” –

The home is the center of life. It is a refuge from the grind of work, the pressure of school, and the menace of the streets. We say that at home, we can “be ourselves.” Everywhere else, we are someone else. At home, we remove our masks.
The home is the wellspring of personhood.
When we try to understand ourselves, we often begin by considering the kind of home in which we were raised.
The word for “home” encompasses not just shelter but warmth, safety, family—the womb. The ancient Egyptian hieroglyph for “home” was often used in place of “mother.” The Chinese word jiā can mean both family and home. “Shelter” comes from two Old English words: scield (shield) and truma (troop), together forming the image of a family gathering itself within a protective shell. The home remains the primary basis of life. It is where meals are shared, quiet habits formed, dreams confessed, traditions created.

These thoughts come from the book Evicted. The Dallas Morning News has selected quite a book for its summer reading challenge of 2017 (the Points Summer Book Club). It’s a book about home – sort of. More, it’s a book about losing a home. About not having a home to go home to. And, really, can you imagine not having a home to go home to? If we can’t imagine such a challenge, maybe we should consider ourselves some of the lucky ones.

The book is Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond. I presented Evictedmy synopsis of this book last year at the Urban Engagement Book Club, sponsored by CitySquare. Here’s more from the book:

Eviction’s fallout is severe. Losing a home sends families to shelters, abandoned houses, and the street. It invites depression and illness, compels families to move into degrading housing in dangerous neighborhoods, uproots communities, and harms children. Eviction reveals people’s vulnerability and desperation, as well as their ingenuity and guts. 

The author Matthew Desmond did a first-class job examining the plight of the evicted. Here’s another passage:

In 2013, 1 in 8 poor renting families nationwide were unable to pay all of their rent, and a similar number thought it was likely they would be evicted soon. This book is set in Milwaukee, but it tells an American story.
We have failed to fully appreciate how deeply housing is implicated in the creation of poverty. Not everyone living in a distressed neighborhood is associated with gang members, parole officers, employers, social workers, or pastors. But nearly all of them have a landlord.
If incarceration had come to define the lives of men from impoverished black neighborhoods, eviction was shaping the lives of women. Poor black men were locked up. Poor black women were locked out.

The book was awarded the 2017 Pulitzer for nonfiction, along with other honors. In other words, it is substantive, a worth-your-time-to-read book. And, it is absolutely worth your time.

Is it on your reading stack?




(Read this article from the Dallas Morning NewsHow eviction became the core of American poverty. And mark your calendar for August 21-25, including an on-line discussion, and a presentation by the author on August 24).

And, read my earlier blog post: Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond – My Lessons and Takeaways.


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