“Think about the brain power, the human creativity that we just squander,” Matthew Desmond said, looking out at a crowd in the Lawrence University Memorial Chapel on April 12. Evictions have lasting negative effects on families, predominately in children. And that doesn’t just effect one family. It effects the entire community.

Matthew Desmond came to the area as part of the 2019 Fox Cities Reads. Evicted has been read in local book groups and high school classrooms, by police officers and nonprofit leaders, and has resonated with our community.

Desmond challenged audience members to think about housing, eviction, and poverty in a new way at his April 11th and 12th talks. Desmond’s on-the-ground ethnographic work has clarified the debate surrounding housing and eviction and his book has given it a face.

Evictions happen with much more frequency than they did a century ago. There is little to stop a family from being removed from their home during a winter cold snap. Families typically move into worse housing than before, putting children directly at risk. Depression and suicide rates to go up for the evicted.

However, despite the harsh reality of the families Desmond shared about, much of the audience felt inspired because Desmond also shared some of the big strides forward. “When we in our Nation have taken on big problems, we’ve come up with big solutions,” Desmond said.

He also empowered the audience by providing resources to utilize in the fight against poverty. EvictionLab.org is a website Desmond founded that gives real data on our own communities. For instance, the interactive map on the website shows that Outagamie County has a 1.04% eviction rate, Winnebago 1.84%, and Calumet County 1%.

It was inspiring to hear about changes already taking place. Many who attended specifically hoped to hear how the families in the book  are doing and were excited to learn Desmond set up a foundation to assist them. In the introduction and conclusion, community members shared about local initiatives and fundraisers taking place because of Evicted. Speakers included Greg Vandenberg from U.S. Venture/Schmidt Family Foundation, Executive Director of Pillars Joe Mauthe, and Bernie Edmonds of Appleton North High School.

We would like to thank our community partners and the generous donors that made this opportunity possible, including

  • U.S. Venture/Schmidt Family Foundation
  • Green Bay Packers Foundation
  • United Way Fox Cities
  • The Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region
  • Celebrate Diversity Fox Cities
  • Pillars
  • The Point Project
  • History Museum at the Castle
  • Project Rush
  • Fox Valley Technical College
  • UW Extension
  • Habitat for Humanity
  • The City of Appleton
  • Goodwill
  • OWLS
  • Winnefox Library System

Special thank you also to our volunteers, board members, librarians, and community advocates.