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Tag: Go Big Read 2016-2017

Evicted Wins Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction

It is with much pride we share that this year’s Go Big Read text, Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, by UW alum and esteemed sociologist Matthew Desmond, has won the Pulitzer Prize.

Evicted was honored Monday as the 2017 Pulitzer Prize winner in General Nonfiction. The board cited the text as “a deeply researched exposé that showed how mass evictions after the 2008 economic crash were less a consequence than a cause of poverty” (pulitzer.org).

Students and faculty in the Sociology Department gather to hear Desmond, recent winner of the Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction, speak on campus this past fall. (Photo by Bryce Richter / UW-Madison)

The Pulitzer Prize is one of the most esteemed honors in all of literature. Set forth in the 1904 will of Joseph Pulitzer, a Hungarian-born, American newspaper publisher, the Prize functions as an “incentive to excellence” (pulitzer.org). Currently, there are 21 awards given each year across a variety of categories including journalism, letters, drama, and music; specific categories include, but are not limited to Breaking News Photography, Drama, Editorial Cartooning, History, Local Reporting, Music, Poetry, and Public Service Journalism. Winners of 20 of the 21 categories receive a certificate and cash reward, while the winner of the Public Service category receives the gold medal.

The Pulitzer Prize Gold Medal, awarded to winners of the Public Service category. CC Image courtesy of Fort Greene Focus on Flickr.

Congratulations to Matthew for this incredible and well deserved honor!

Morgan Olsen
Student Assistant, Go Big Read Office

Go Big Read Art on Display in Teaching and Learning Programs Office

This past fall we shared that the Wisconsin School of Business’s direct admit LEAD course and the Go Big Read program had partnered to harness art as a means to further investigate the ideas presented in Go Big Read social justice texts. The result was 20 unique pieces of art, aimed to address social issues.

LEAD students creating their prints in Wheelhouse Studios.

In the Union’s Wheelhouse Studios last November, LEAD students drew on inspiration from historical and current social justice movement posters and evoked their own knowledge from Go Big Read texts Just Mercy and Evicted  (bus.wisc.edu). All in, 120 students implemented their creativity, collaboratively hand-making 20 beautiful posters.

One print made by LEAD students.

The artwork now hangs in the Go Big Read space, within the Teaching and Learning Programs office within Memorial Library. The prints add wonderful depth and interest to the space and speak to the Go Big Read program’s effort to stimulate campus discussions.

We are so proud to have such incredible student work gracing our walls!

Morgan Olsen

Student Assistant, Go Big Read Office

Gov. Walker’s New Budget Proposal Includes Funding to Fight Homelessness

Street Pulse, Wisconsin’s Homeless/Marginalized Newspaper, recently reported exciting news surrounding Governor Walker’s 2017-2019 Executive Budget: the proposed state budget will include major funding and program developments that will directly impact, and possibly improve, homelessness and housing scarcity in Wisconsin (Street Pulse).

As the article in the March 2017 issue shares, for the first time in 25 years there will be an increase in funding directed towards fighting homelessness.

Governor Scott Walker, pictured here, and Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch recently proposed increased funding for homelessness prevention in the Wisconsin 2017-2019 Executive Budget. CC Image courtesy of Gage Skidmore on Flickr.

Highlights of the budget include:

  1. $500,000 per year in TANF funds for intensive case management services for homeless families within homeless shelters – services will focus on financial counseling, school enrollment, professional networking, and enrollment for unemployed or underemployed individuals in W2 or FSET programs
  2. Piloting of prioritization of Housing Choice Vouchers for the chronically homeless – pilot program will give priority for housing vouchers to individuals who are deemed chronically homeless, hopefully curbing homelessness rates
  3. $660,800 yearly expansion of Open Avenues to Reentry Success (OARS) to five additional counties – program focuses on serving mentally ill patients following release from prison so they may more easily adapt to life after serving sentences, thus decreasing risk for homelessness
  4. Provide $75,000 in funds for pilot homeless employment program based on Albuquerque’s “Better Way” initiative – pilot will provide homeless individuals with work experience and routine through municipal jobs like park maintenance
  5.  Mend Wisconsin’s transitional housing statute – remedy will ease the process of granting funds to support homelessness prevention and rapid rehousing
  6. Create Homeless Services Coordinator position within the Department of Health Services – Coordinator will work with homeless agencies and municipalities to develop a waiver program for homeless housing transition; waiver program will support housing searches, tenant training, and appropriate documentation so as to ensure successful housing placement for homeless individuals

These proposed tenants of the new 2017-2019 budget provide a stronger support system for homeless individuals and those grappling with the housing epidemic currently occurring in America. Furthermore, this framework allows for a wider safety net for those facing eviction in the state of Wisconsin, like those Matthew Desmond worked with in Milwaukee.

 

 

Morgan Olsen

Student Assistant, Go Big Read Program

 

To learn more about Street Pulse newspaper and it’s unique approach to combating homelessness in Madison, check out this article by the Isthmus.

 

Gentrification – Understanding & Context

Gentrification – Understanding & Context is Part I of a two part series on gentrification and its consequences. Stay tuned for Part II: Gentrification – Consequences, Impacts, & Eviction.

What is gentrification?

Gentrification is the process by which more affluent people (generally demographically young and white) settle in an urban neighborhood (typically populated by low-income residents and people of color), pushing property values and housing costs up and driving a complete change in neighborhood character and culture. The dramatic rise of housing costs and the overwhelming shift in neighborhood personality often drive low-income, long-time residents out of their own community.

Gentrification is a term that is oftentimes is “used negatively, suggesting the displacement of poor communities by rich outsiders” (PBS). Many critics go so far as to liken the process of gentrification to colonialism, the well known practice in which one group subjugates another, displacing the ‘lower’ group in the process (Zak Cheney Rice, .Mic). Although many aspects of gentrification do seem to mirror colonialism, and many label the process as a driving force behind the dissolution of culture,  “the effects of gentrification are complex and contradictory, and its real impact varies” (PBS).

A History of Gentrification

Gentrification is a distinctly modern phenomenon, first recognized in the later half of the 20th century. It has truly come to the forefront in urban areas in the last 25 years.

British sociologist Ruth Glass described the process in 1964, noting the sudden influx of middle class, young professionals into the London neighborhood of Islington, an area that was known for its working class roots and West Indian immigrant population (Steven Thomson, Curbed). Playing off the term “gentry”, Glass encompassed the current concept of the process into a single word, “gentrification”, instilling into the phrase both high-class connections and allusions to change.

Aerial view of the Olympic Park and the Stratford neighborhood of London, which has undergone major redevelopment and gentrification in recent years.

Aerial view of the Olympic Park and the Stratford neighborhood of London, which has undergone major redevelopment and gentrification in recent years. CC Image courtesy of EG Focus on Wikimedia Commons.

Although Glass developed the idea of gentrification in London several decades ago, the term still applies to many portions of the city. London in recent years has seen the revitalization, so to speak, of many city center locations and regions on the fringe of the urban core, with more and more educated, young business professionals seeking easy access to work and nightlife. The neighborhood of Shoreditch in East London experienced a massive wave of gentrification in the past ten years and there has been significant backlash against rising property values and living costs. Many locals have been pushed out, and the particular East London grittiness – which Shoreditch was always known for – has been replaced by trendy coffee shops and even a cold cereal bar. My own former neighborhood of Stratford, another East London locale, seems to be on the same track. Stratford—where I lived from January 2016 to June 2016—is one of the best examples of a modern age “melting pot”. The region transitioned from an industrial hub in the mid-1900s to an ethnically diverse enclave with an impressive mixture of cultures and nationalities. Still today, walking down the street you will find diverse cuisines and people of all backgrounds. However, gentrification had already begun before my arrival, particularly with the development of the area in lieu of the 2012 Olympics. With more modern structures came influxes of educated, young professionals and measurable change. Even in conversation with my former boss, who lived there only a few years before me, it is evident that Stratford has changed dramatically: dingy old sectors have been razed, malls have been built, a new tube station designed, ethnic gems destroyed, and crime reduced. In attempts to court whiter and more affluent young residents, new, modern buildings and amenities are constantly under development. As a result, housing prices have risen and many locals are being forced further eastward. Like Shoreditch, the neighborhood is in jeopardy of losing its cultural diversity due to soaring housing costs. However, at the same time, many residents, both new and long-term, are heralding some changes: nearly all regard the addition of green spaces, development of reliable transportation, and reduction in violence, as a positive, making the area is better for everyone. Yet, these positives are often times at odds with the negatives associated with gentrification in the region. The complex story of Stratford highlights the diverse and often times dueling consequences of gentrification.

The Lower East Side, a traditionally Jewish neighborhood, was one of the last portions of Manhattan to gentrify.

The Lower East Side, a traditionally Jewish neighborhood, was one of the last portions of Manhattan to gentrify. CC Image courtesy of David Shankbone on Wikimedia Commons.

In the United States, as well, gentrification has been a strong force in the later half of the 20th century through recent years. The origins of gentrification are often found in the 1960s during the push for renewal throughout urban areas and the ongoing drive to cut crime and revitalize poorer neighborhoods of cities. The removal of blighted buildings, the addition of modern conveniences, and the decline of violence and drug use not only made neighborhoods throughout American cities better for their own residents during this time period, but also attracted outsiders (Nyesha Zenetta Maughn).

In New York for instance, over the course of the late 20th century, crime rates dropped dramatically—today, crime is at only 19% of its 1990 level (Thomas Rogers, Salon). Coupled with redevelopment of lower Manhattan and other districts, the affluent began to flock to the city, building up nearly every corner of the island. Areas like SoHo, the Lower East Side, and Flatiron are what they are today—sophisticated hubs for culture, shopping, dining, and living—because of stronger policing tactics and strategic urban renewal projects. The urban revitalization and crime abatement obviously had major positive effects for the city and the new residents. However, what happened to lifelong residents as their rent prices began to soar? What happened to their communities and distinct cultures as the new moved in and the old moved out? Given these complex consequences, many have asked if it is possible to make neighborhoods safer and more modern, without attracting more affluent residents and threatening specific cultural enclaves (The Dirt, Aaron King).

SoHo developed rapidly after an influx of educated professionals and artists in the 1990s.

SoHo developed rapidly after an influx of educated professionals and artists in the 1990s. CC Image courtesy of Fuzzy Images on Flickr.

But, then again, perhaps reduction in crime rates and the push for redevelopment was not the sole factor contributing to gentrification in major cities from the 1990s until today. In fact, a “1976 study by the Urban Land Institute”—even before crime rates declined and renewal peaked—”found that nearly half of the 260 cities [surveyed] with a population over 50,000 had undergone gentrification” (Steven Thomson, Curbed). Therefore, gentrification seems to have appeared in cities before major changes in the urban landscape occurred. This possibly suggests that there was a preference shift for the American middle class and the young. It seems that in the 1960s, educated, young professionals and artists had “an increasing desire for the kind of cultural and intellectual pursuits which are generally found only in the central cities—performing arts, museums, libraries, seminars, etc.” (Steven Thomson, Curbed). Their shift in priorities led them to move to cities, driving demand and rent up, displacing locals.

The Domino Sugar Factory in Williamsburg was representative of the working class roots of the neighborhood in the mid 1900s.

The Domino Sugar Factory in Williamsburg was representative of the working class roots of the neighborhood in the mid 20th century. Since then, many young professionals have flooded into the area. CC Image courtesy of David Shankbone on Wikimedia Commons.

Whether a push for urban renewal, the reduction in crime rates, or the shift in young professional housing preferences, there is no doubt that gentrification was and still is pervasive. Gentrification has been widespread in locations such as San Francisco, which has the highest housing prices in the country; the Williamsburg neighborhood in Brooklyn; and Boston (Zak Cheney Rice, .Mic). In Williamsburg, rent prices have soared over 75% since 1990, with costs on average increasing 6.8% per year (Jessica Dailey, Curbed). To put this in perspective, when my grandmother grew up in Williamsburg in the 1940s, her parents’ 3-bedroom garden-level apartment would have cost roughly $900 in today’s real money. In 2017, a 3-bedroom apartment in Williamsburg goes for $4,000. This increase in housing costs seems excessive to many.

What’s Next?

Clearly gentrification has historically had widespread impacts in terms of housing costs and displacement of people and culture in urban places—and these impacts continue today. However, what has yet to be explored is how gentrification perhaps impacts our own community and the people we met in Matthew Desmond’s book, Evicted.

More to come on these topics next week in Part II: Gentrification – Consequences, Impacts, & Eviction.

 

Morgan Olsen

Student Assistant, Go Big Read Office

 

Williamsburg, Brooklyn is ubiquitous with gentrification.

The Williamsburg neighborhood in Brooklyn is ubiquitous with gentrification. CC Image courtesy of LWYang on Wikimedia Commons.

 

 

Links between Race & Eviction in Dane County

On the UW campus, the lunch hour tends to be a sacred refuge from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. It’s a beloved time to sit and relax for students, professionals, and professors alike—an hour of time carved out between classes, studying, grant writing, emails, or intensive research to enjoy a pb&j, a food cart delicacy, or a State Street find. I often find myself chatting with a friend with pork buns in hand on Library Mall, relishing in the moment I have to forget about the stress of my day.

Pedestrians stop to purchase lunch or a quick snack from a number of food vendor carts set up along a walkway in Library Mall at the University of Wisconsin-Madison during autumn on Sept. 30, 2010. (Photo by Jeff Miller/UW-Madison)

The lunch rush at the food trucks on library mall. (Photo by Jeff Miller/UW-Madison)

However, last month, professors, students, and community members sacrificed this meal time for a very worthy cause: to learn more about the eviction crisis in Dane County.

Evicted in Dane County: A Panel Discussion on the Relationship Between Eviction and Housing Vulnerability, an event co-sponsored by the UW Department of Urban and Regional Planning and the Go Big Read Program, was held in Memorial Union on Thursday, October 27. Over the lunch hour, the panel provided an opportunity to discuss the interconnections of race and eviction in our own backyard. Speakers included Rob Dicke, the Executive Director of Dane County Housing Authority (DCHA); Brenda Konkel, the Executive Director of the Tenant Resource Center (TRC); Heidi Wegleitner, District 2 County Supervisor and attorney at Legal Action of Wisconsin; and Mitch, an Assistant Clinical Professor and Director of the Neighborhood Law Clinic (NLC) at UW-Madison.

The panel was held in lieu of recent findings of a study by six UW-Madison graduate students and Revel Sims, an assistant professor in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning. The Dane County study, titled “Evicted in Dane County, Wisconsin: A Collaborative Examination of the Housing Landscape” reflected similar findings to the Milwaukee Area Renter’s Survey (MARS), which was conducted by Evicted author Matthew Desmond. Sims et al.’s research overwhelmingly found that “race is the most important factor in explaining evictions in Dane County,” with “most non-white neighborhoods showing rates well above the county average” (Doug Erickson, madison.com).

The study resulted from a collaborative effort between Sims and his students and the Tenant Resource Center (TRC) this past summer. The team interviewed and worked with key actors, like lawyers and tenants, and also accumulated eviction data in Dane County from the past 15 years. With such intensive and well-rounded research, the work provided significant insight into the Madison rental market and eviction situation on the basis of race and income.

Dane County, Wisconsin.

Dane County, Wisconsin.

Sims and his team found that there were 40,439 eviction court cases in Dane County from 2000 to 2015 alone, with an average of 2,527 cases per year (Evicted in Dane County, Wisconsin). Among these evictions, the top six block groups (“neighborhoods” so to speak) leading in eviction rates were among those with the most proportion of minority residents. As Wisconsin Public Radio shares, nine out of ten of the “most nonwhite neighborhoods in the county have an eviction filing rate well above average for block clusters between 600 and 3,000 people” (Avory Brookins, WPR). For instance, the block named Allied Drive, which is on the southwestern edge of Lake Monona, had the second most evictions in the 15 year period, with a total of 1,215 evictions; Allied Drive also had the second most non-white population, with 78.04% of the residents identified as non-white. Meanwhile, neighborhoods like Southdale/East Badger Road and Leopold claimed the seventh and eighth highest eviction rates in the city—between the two alone, there were 1,550 evictions in a 15 year period. Like the Allied Drive neighborhood, Southdale and Leopold blocks were also overwhelmingly non-white in population, with the second and third most non-white residents in the Madison area, respectively.

The sight of an eviction notice is more common for people of color than whites in Dane County.

The sight of an eviction notice is more common for people of color than whites in Dane County.

Most upsetting, however, is how the research notes not only the ongoing positive correlation between eviction and race, but also how eviction may provide a means to upholding neighborhood racial segregation. As the researchers explain, “block groups with the greatest number of evictions are often found directly adjacent to block groups that have some of the highest percentages of non-white residents”. This may suggest that “eviction may serve as a means to ‘police’ the boundaries between different communities and thus contribute to the overall pattern of racial segregation” (Evicted in Dane County, Wisconsin).

At the event, panelists delved deeper into the report’s findings and discussed the real world realities of overwhelming non-white evictions in the Madison area. Konkel, of the TRC, witnesses the housing difficulties of people of color first hand, sharing that her organization serves “50 to 60 percent people of color in [its] programs”. However, as she notes, considering Dane County is only around 15% non-white, the figures suggest that housing instability unjustly affects people of color more than whites (Avory Brookins, WPR). Her reality firmly supports Sims et al.’s data.

Eviction in dane county panelists

Panelists share their insight to the eviction situation in Dane County on October 27, 2016.

Meanwhile, panelists also grappled with the causes of non-white eviction levels. Some pointed to the unjust advantage landlords have in the legal system. Panelist Wegleitner said “the state court system’s online database, known as CCAP, is ‘a huge problem’ for many people trying to find housing because landlords often use the information to screen potential tenants” (Doug Erickson, madison.com). Eviction notices tend to be problematic because they remain in the system, visible to future landlords, even if the case was dropped or thrown out. This can lead to long-term housing difficulties for tenants, especially those of color who are disproportionately affected by the criminal justice system; housing becomes more tenuous and eviction more likely. Other structural and social issues can also push people of color into poverty and, as a result, high levels of eviction.

Overall, Sims and the panelists shared that they were not surprised that the housing system is racially biased. As Sims shared in his own words, “we have a long history of racism in housing in this country” and “some of our most important legislation emerged to prevent it.” However, “to think it has gone away because of the 1968 Fair Housing Act[,] is ludicrous.” (Doug Erickson, madison.com).

Clearly much work still needs to be done to change the nature of the housing market for the better, especially here in our own backyard.

For more information on Revel Sims and his students’ findings, please check out their study, here.

 

Morgan Olsen

Student Assistant, Go Big Read Office

(Cover photo credit: Fibonacci Blue on Flickr)

 

Go Big Read Selects ‘Evicted’ for 2016-17

It’s the story of eight Milwaukee families faced with losing their homes. It’s also a powerful analysis of a little-known epidemic affecting people across the country living in poverty.

“Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City,” the best-selling book by alumnus Matthew Desmond, is the 2016-17 selection for Go Big Read, UW–Madison’s common-reading program.

“This book provides us an opportunity to talk about a little-understood facet of poverty and the profound implications it has for American families, particularly in communities of color,” Chancellor Rebecca Blank says. “I’m proud that an alum has brought this issue to the forefront and I look forward to conversations in our community about this important subject.”

Desmond received his doctorate from UW–Madison in 2010. He is an associate professor of sociology and social studies at Harvard University and an affiliate of the Institute for Research on Poverty at the UW. In 2015, he received a MacArthur “genius” grant.

In his book, he writes that in the early 20th century, evictions in the U.S. were somewhat rare and popularly contested. Now they have become a frequent occurrence for low-income families, especially those headed by black women.

Milwaukee, a city of roughly 105,000 renter households, sees roughly 16,000 adults and children evicted in an average year, Desmond’s research shows. This is equivalent to 16 eviction cases a day.

“Providing stable housing and lowering evictions is a human capital investment analogous to education or job training — one that has the potential to decrease poverty and homelessness and stabilize families, schools and neighborhoods,” Desmond says.

“‘Evicted’ is astonishing — a masterpiece of writing and research that fills a tremendous gap in our understanding of poverty,” says previous Go Big Read author Rebecca Skloot. “Beautiful, harrowing, and deeply human, ‘Evicted’ is a must read for anyone who cares about social justice in this country.”

Go Big Read has a history of choosing timely topics that are part of the national discussion. This past year’s Go Big Read book, “Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson, highlights racial inequality and the need to reform America’s justice system. That success offers a bridge to a campus dialogue on Desmond’s central question: “Do we believe that the right to a decent home is part of what it means to be American?”

Initially, “immigration and community” had been chosen as the theme for the 2016-17 academic year, but “Evicted,” with its new insights on strengthening communities and its relevance within and beyond Wisconsin, made it a timely selection, Blank says.

Planning is underway for how students, faculty and staff will use the book in classrooms and for special events. Desmond plans to visit campus and give a talk. Copies of the book will be given to first-year students at the Chancellor’s Convocation for New Students, and to students using the book in their classes. UW–Madison instructors interested in using the book can request a review copy.

The Go Big Read program is an initiative of the Office of the Chancellor.

 

2016-2017 Go Big Read Theme: Immigrants and Community

Have you read any great books lately? Do you think something you’ve read would make a great Go Big Read selection? Let us know! For the 2016-2017 academic year, we are seeking books with a focus on immigrants and community.

In the press release about the upcoming theme, Chancellor Blank had this to say: “America is a nation of people with roots throughout the world. Immigration is a topic that will lend itself to sharing our own stories of where we come from, as well as sparking a wide range of discussions about how we build community.”

If you’ve recently read something that engages with the theme of inequality in America, we want to hear about it. The deadline to submit books for consideration is January 24, 2016, and we are accepting both fiction and non-fiction nominations. You can use this form to nominate titles, and read more about our selection criteria here, and also see if your favorite title is on our running suggestion list.

We can’t wait to hear from you!