Skip to main content
University of Wisconsin–Madison

Author: Morgan Sederburg

What Migration Means for America

“The people who are able to leave very often do so,” explained Hillbilly Elegy author J.D. Vance on leaving his hometown of Middletown, Ohio.

When discussing migration, one is forced to consider the reasons that people decide to leave and the costs that come with doing so. Framed by the greater migration of Appalachian residents to cities in the Rust Belt following World War II, author J.D. Vance chronicles his grandparents’ move from Jackson, Kentucky to Middletown, Ohio, and the adjustments they had to make in their lives away from the community in which they grew up. Vance himself left his hometown as an adult, first serving in the Marine Corps, then moving in order to further his education at Ohio State University and Yale, finally settling in San Francisco for career opportunities.

In March of this year, Vance announced in a New York Times Op-Ed that he and his family would be moving to Columbus, Ohio to found a nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting the opioid epidemic that has spread across the United States. In explaining this decision, he mentions that geographic mobility in the United States has been declining over the last thirty years. The people who move to those areas are those who have the means and skills to be successful in areas of the country where economic opportunities abound, leaving behind struggling towns.

CC Image courtesy of David Mark on Pixabay. Columbus, Ohio.

Vance hopes that by moving back to Ohio, he can help counter this trend sometimes referred to as the “brain drain”. He writes about another friend, Ami Vitori Kimener, who is in a similar transition. Kimener moved back to Middletown, Ohio, after graduating from Georgetown University, to start a business and work to revitalize the city. Yet Vance also states that “not every town can or should be saved”, alluding to the greater debate over what should be done about the towns around the country with few economic prospects and the people who still live in them.

Author J.D. Vance. CC Image Courtesy of the J.D. Vance website.

An article published in The Atlantic last week by Brian Alexander engages with this debate from the perspective of those people who do still live in those areas. Alexander, like Vance, writes about the decrease in internal migration in the United States while acknowledging that researchers are not sure what this means for the future of the country. More importantly, he examines why people in “dying towns” simply do not pick up and move to an area with more opportunity.

Author Brian Alexander. CC Image Courtesy of the Brian Alexander Website.

There are various reasons and factors that go into peoples’ calculations about where to live, some external and some internal. Any solution to this issue will likely complex and nuanced, and studying these factors is an important first step in that direction.

Morgan Sederburg
Student Assistant, Go Big Read Office

So You’ve Read the Book – What Now?

Whew, it’s been a busy semester. Over ten thousand students and faculty on campus have read and discussed “Evicted” in their classes and at book discussions, Matthew Desmond’s Author Talk has come and gone, and the Go Big Read program is already thinking about selecting a book for next year (if you have a suggestion, submit it here).

Despite all this (or perhaps because of all this), the end of the semester should not mean the end of the discussion or, more importantly, the action. A number of programs both national and local exist that are helping people who have experienced or are at risk of experiencing eviction as well as groups that work to advocate for affordable housing across the country.

For example, here in Madison, the Tenant Resource Center provides counseling and mediation for people being evicted along with other resources. They are willing to train volunteers to work as housing counselors, helping people with questions on rental rights and responsibilities. Mediators and assistance with office administration are also welcome.

Porchlight is another Madison-based program that provides housing and support services to people experiencing homelessness. They have a number of volunteer opportunities requiring varying levels of commitment, from occasionally helping with the maintenance and upkeep of Porchlight housing properties to working with guests who are applying for jobs and housing.

The Dane County Salvation Army, which runs a shelter and food pantries along with providing support services, is always looking for volunteers to help serve a meal, mentor a child, or stock the food pantry. Organizations can also host food or school supply drives while individuals with graphic design skills are needed to assist in creating marketing and outreach materials.

These are just a few of the many organizations working in Dane County (not to mention the rest of the country) that are in need of funds and support in order to continue working to improve the living conditions for families and individuals. For a more complete list and links to websites, check out the “Get Involved” page of the “Evicted” Research Guide.

 

Morgan Sederburg

Student Assistant, Go Big Read Program

Getting Ready for Matthew Desmond’s visit

The Author Event for Go Big Read is fast approaching. In just over a week, Matthew Desmond himself will be on campus to speak about the themes in his book, Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, along with his continuing work on the housing and eviction issues facing the United States today.

Evicted follows the stories of eight families in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, over the course of a year and a half as they struggle find housing, pay rent, and provide for themselves and their loved ones. According to Desmond, the number of formal evictions that occur each year has soared over the last sixty years. These numbers become even higher when one factors in other “forced moves” that result from other circumstances that tenants don’t consider to be evictions. These involuntary relocation has severe consequences not just for the family itself, but also the larger community.

Desmond’s talk will take place next Tuesday, November 1, in Shannon Hall in Memorial Union at 7:00 pm.

If you are planning on driving in for the event, we recommend the public parking ramp at Lake and State streets for easy access to the venue (1.5 block walk). For other parking locations, please consult the campus map. If you are dropping off or planning on parking very close to the Union, make sure to use Park St. – Langdon St. is closed for construction.

For accessible access to Shannon Hall, please enter Memorial Union from either the west entrance on Langdon Street or the northwest entrance on Park Street, near Helen C. White hall and the beginning of the Union Terrace.

Also, please remember that Memorial Union’s east wing is currently under construction. For more information on how this may impact your evening, please see here.

Tickets for the event sold out at record speed at the time of release – all tickets are currently sold out. However, there are some fun alternatives to still be a part of the author visit event:

  1. Stand-by line – There will be a standby line at Memorial Union the night of the event should people still wish to attend. Entrance to the event will depend on venue capactity and unclaimed seats.
  2. Live webstream – For those who are unable to attend in person, Desmond’s talk will be livestreamed via a link on the main page of the Go Big Read website. You may enjoy Desmond’s talk from the comfort of home!
  3. Live stream watch events –  There will be a handful of watch events streaming the live feed around campus and in the Madison area on the night of November 1. Locations include Madison Central Library, the Wisconsin Historical Society, and College Library, to name a few. For more information on these watch events or to find one near you, please visit our events calendar.
  4. Watch online– A recording of the event will be uploaded on our site in the hours following the event for anyone who may have missed the livestream.

Please let us know if you have any questions about the event or any of the watch alternatives via email.

By Morgan Sederburg

Struggles between Landlords & Tenants in Los Angeles

The subtitle of Matthew Desmond’s book, “Evicted,” is “Poverty and profit in the American city.” This serves as a reminder that although the book itself focuses on housing issues in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, struggles over rent are happening all across the United States. Most recently, tenants in an apartment complex in Highland Park are facing mass eviction as the new owners of the building look to renovate units and increase rents in an effort to capitalize on the flow of higher-income residents to the quickly-gentrifying neighborhood.

Desmond brings up the concept of tenants organizing and protesting evictions in the prologue of his book, noting that historically, such reactions were common responses to these events (Desmond, 3-4). However, as time went on and eviction rates increased, this community action happened less and less. By 2008, when Larraine was calling various programs for rent assistance, Desmond notes that she “did not dial the number to a tenants’ union because Milwaukee, like most American cities, didn’t have one” (Desmond, 112).

Because their building, Marmion Royal, was built later than many of the other buildings in the area, it was exempt from the city’s Rent Stabilization Ordinance, which would have limited rent increases to 3% per year and required owners to pay for the relocation fees incurred by residents who were evicted for renovations. Because of this, tenants are organizing, blocking renovation efforts, and reaching out to tenants’ unions (Los Angeles is one of a few cities that does have such organizations) in nearby neighborhoods. This action has encouraged more conversations between the landlords and tenants and, while it is yet unclear what the outcome will be, the whole situation is an interesting example of housing conflict that not featured as prominently in “Evicted.”

Read the full story from the L.A. Times here.

Written by Morgan Sederburg

Chancellor Blank on Creating Community

Last week Chancellor Blank wrote a blog post addressing some of the difficult events that have occurred this summer both around the world and in this very state, pointing out that many of the questions these events have raised are also questions Matthew Desmond explores in “Evicted.” Read her full post below or on the Chancellor’s website here.

Creating community after a difficult summer

Posted on August 18, 2016 by Chancellor Blank

Across the country and around the world, this summer has, sadly, been filled with news of tragedy and violence, starting with killings in Orlando, Baton Rouge, St. Paul and Dallas. I suspect all of us have been horrified at one time or another as we’ve turned on the television.

This past weekend, there was significant unrest in Milwaukee, the largest and most diverse city in our state, as well as home to many of our students. And those who have stayed in Madison over the summer know that we’ve had our own series of controversial incidents and protests.

All of these events are likely to be on people’s minds as they return to campus to prepare for the semester ahead. Appropriately, one of this year’s themes– and the subject of our Go Big Read book, Evicted, is “what is community?”

 

At this moment, it seems particularly important to ask: How is community forged? How do communities like Milwaukee or Madison come together in the wake of violence and tragedy? How does UW-Madison do a better job engaging with our local community and our state? And how do we grapple with the changes we need to implement here on campus?

Many of us on campus have been busy over the summer, following through on our commitments to make the university more welcoming for all. We are moving forward on multiple initiatives, including the launch of a new pilot program for incoming freshmen on community building, called Our Wisconsin.

Within the next few weeks, I and others will share information about these different efforts, including the ways in which we are taking up the suggestions that came in last spring through our community proposal process. We received more than 100 ideas for improving campus climate, inspiring new programs and giving us new ways to think about expanding and modifying current efforts.

Over the summer I’ve also been holding conversations with a variety of community leaders about our community and our campus.  I have invited a number of these individuals to be part of a Community Advisory Cabinet to UW Leadership.

It must be a central part of our education efforts here at UW-Madison to ensure that our students, when they graduate, are comfortable working and living in more diverse communities.  The jobs of the 21st century and the employers who hire our students demand these skills.

Following this difficult summer, I suspect that many of us — faculty, staff, and students — will find it helpful to talk about what we’ve been watching and experiencing as these events have unfolded.  I know that I have felt deep concern and even despair.  I want to share those reactions with colleagues and friends and talk about how we move forward and find hope.

I plan to invite all the units around campus to invite their members into this conversation, if they wish to participate.  I’ll be sending out more information right before the semester about how we can do this across campus.

It is our responsibility as a university community to try and understand the world around us…and to work to create a community here that reflects our values.

Madison Schools Address Needs of Homeless Students

The most recent piece in the Wisconsin State Journal’s series on homelessness examines the relationship between a child’s insecure housing situation and their education. According to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, 1,414 students were identified as homeless throughout the 2014-15 school year in the Madison School District, and even this count is most likely lower than the actual number. Homelessness causes unique stresses for students experiencing it as anxieties about what they will eat and where they will sleep distract from the concentration needed to focus on school. Yet a review of research by the Family Housing Fund reveals that early and constant intervention by schools can minimize and reverse the effects of homelessness.

K’won Watson, a six-year-old at Hawthorne Elementary School, experienced these efforts first-hand while living with his mother and baby brother at the Salvation Army homeless shelter. When he enrolled in kindergarten in October 2015, he received school supplies and free lunches in addition to getting his school fees waived. Further assistance was provided by the district’s Transition Education Program, which was founded in 1989 and works to help homeless students. K’won received intensive reading support and was able to work with Hawthorne’s positive behavior support coach. This network of assistance provided the resources and stability K’won needed in order to concentrate in class.

Unable to find housing after exceeding the maximum amount of time families are allowed to stay at the Salvation Army shelter, K’won’s mother moved their family back to Chicago in the middle of the school year, a sadly common occurrence for students at Hawthorne Elementary. Still, the teachers and support staff there hope they were able to make a positive impact on him.

Says teacher Jani Koester, “If we’re going to break the cycle of homelessness, we have to look at the needs of the children. They have to have hope that their lives can be different.”

You can read the full article by the Wisconsin State Journal here.