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One Step Away from the Dumpster

Matthew Desmond takes an inside look at the inner-city nightmare of eviction.
One Step Away from the Dumpster
Image: Sébastien Thibault
Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City
Our Rating
4 Stars - Excellent
Book Title
Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City
Author
Publisher
Crown
Release Date
March 1, 2016
Pages
432
Price
$19.04
Buy Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City from Amazon

On the way to our family’s apartment-complex parking spot, we drive past two large dumpsters, dark green and rather foreboding, often full to bursting with yesterday’s trash. Some days little children search for cans to redeem for candy money. Or grown men crawl inside the large boxes, hunting for things to use or sell.

Just the other day I noticed all sorts of furniture piled high against the dumpsters: mattresses, tables, chairs, couches. “Oh no,” I murmured. “It looks like someone must have gotten bed bugs.”

My husband was quiet for a minute, then looked at me. “Actually,” he said, “it looks like somebody got evicted. That’s the furniture of an entire apartment.”

I knew he was right, but I couldn’t bear to believe it. I couldn’t bear to think about who slept on those mattresses, ate at that table, sat on that couch. I couldn’t bear to think about where they would go next. So I turned my face away, the Oregon rain starting to fall on those belongings, relics of history and place ruined and discarded for all to see. More than anything, I felt a rising shame at my own sense of powerlessness.

Matthew Desmond knows this sting all too well. Raised a preacher’s son, he was primed for a modest middle-class life. But when his parents’ house went into foreclosure, he was moved to study issues of poverty in America. As a recipient of the MacArthur Genius Grant for his sociological fieldwork in poverty-stricken portions of Milwaukee, he has seen firsthand the enormous ripple effect of evictions and forced relocations—how they keep people mired in poverty (while making a few individuals very wealthy).

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the ...

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One Step Away from the Dumpster
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