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Tag: Matthew Desmond

Integrate Latest Go Big Read Book into your Course!

On Tuesday, Chancellor Rebecca Blank announced the title of the forthcoming 2017-18 Go Big Read book, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance.

Seeing as a key component of the Go Big Read program is the incorporation of the book into academic courses across campus, it’s once more time to consider curricular integration! Some classes will use the book on their required reading lists, while others will offer themes related to the book as optional topics for papers and presentations. The possibilities are truly endless. Furthermore, all students who are enrolled in these participating courses will receive a free copy of the book and will benefit from the critical thinking and discussions the text may inspire.

Last year’s text–Pulitzer Prize winning text, Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American Cityby esteemed sociologist and UW alum Matthew Desmond–was incorporated into over 100 diverse courses, ranging from Botany 265: Rainforests and Coral Reefs to Dance 011: Contemporary Dance I and from Genetics 562: Human Cytogenetics to Urban and Regional Planning 590: Making Health Matter in Planning, just to name a few.

Curricular integration and discussion is a key component of the Go Big Read program.

Students gain key critical thinking skills from reading, discussing, and completing assignments about the Go Big Read text.

Like EvictedHillbilly Elegy can be worked into a wide range of classroom spaces, including, but not limited to courses within the studies of Anthropology, Athletic Training, Biology, Communication Arts, Community and Environmental Sociology, Community and Nonprofit Leadership, Economics, Elementary Education, English, Gender and Women’s Studies, Geography, History, Human Development and Family Studies, Journalism, Landscape Architecture, Legal Studies, Management and Human Resources, Nutritional Sciences, Personal Finance, Political Science, Psychology, Real Estate and Urban Land Economics, Religious Studies, Social Welfare or Social Work, Sociology, and Statistics.

Students discuss A Tale for the Time Being, the Go Big Read book of the 2013-2014 academic year, in the classroom.

We hope to see many professors, students, and community members engaging with the text throughout next year. Support from administrators, community leaders, and professors helps to make our program impactful and relevant each year!

For more information about the book and the topics it touches, please click here.

For more information about how to integrate the text into your classroom or your programming, please click here.

 

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.

 

Awards & Honors for Evicted

Last week, it was announced that Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City had won the distinguished Andrew Carnegie Medal of Excellence in Nonfiction. This prestigious honor, was only the most recent in a slew of awards, honors, and distinctions that the book has received in the last several months.

In this piece, we would like to expound upon the wonderful success of this year’s Go Big Read text. Here are a few of the most exciting awards, honors, distinctions, and praise for Matthew Desmond’s work.

AWARDS

800-CEO-READ Business Book Award — Shortlist 2016 — Books can help create more humane, diverse, modern, and effective businesses, stronger communities, and a better world. The 800-CEO-READ Business Book Awards exist to recognize the best books in the business genre every year, and all the people who help bring them to life. Categories include, Leadership & Strategy, Management & Workplace Culture, Marketing & Sales, Innovation & Creativity, Personal Development & Human Behavior, Current Events & Public Affairs, Narrative & Biography, and Big Ideas & New Perspectives (800ceoread.com).

Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction —Winnner 2017 — The Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction, established in 2012, recognize the best fiction and nonfiction books for adult readers published in the U.S. in the previous year and serve as a guide to help adults select quality reading material. They are the first single-book awards for adult books given by the American Library Association and reflect the expert judgment and insight of library professionals who work closely with adult readers. The winners (one for fiction, one for nonfiction) are announced at an event at the ALA Midwinter Meeting; winning authors receive a $5,000 cash award, and two finalists in each category receive $1,500.(ala.org).

Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers Award — Finalist 2016 — Connecting readers with unforgettable new stories since 1990 (barnesandnoble.com).

Kirkus Prize for Non-Fiction — Finalist 2016 — The Kirkus Prize is one of the richest literary awards in the world, with a prize of $50,000 bestowed annually to authors of fiction, nonfiction and young readers’ literature. It was created to celebrate the 81 years of discerning, thoughtful criticism Kirkus Reviews has contributed to both the publishing industry and readers at large (kirkusreviews.com).

L.A. Times Festival of Books, Book Prize in Current Interest – Shortlist 2017 – Since 1980, the LA Times Book Prizes have honored the previous year’s best books and their authors (latimes.com).

MacArthur ‘Genius’ Award — Award Winner 2015 — The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation supports creative people, effective institutions, and influential networks building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. MacArthur is placing a few big bets that truly significant progress is possible on some of the world’s most pressing social challenges, including over-incarceration, global climate change, nuclear risk, and significantly increasing financial capital for the social sector (macfound.org).

National Book Critics Circle Awards — Winner 2016 — The National Book Critics Circle awards are given each March and honor the best literature published in the United States in six categories—autobiography, biography, criticism, fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. These are the only national literary awards chosen by critics themselves (bookcritics.org).

PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction — Winner 2017 — This biennial prize of $10,000 will go to the author of a distinguished book of general nonfiction possessing notable literary merit and critical perspective and illuminating important contemporary issues which has been published in the United States during the previous two calendar years. The book should possess the qualities of intellectual rigor and importance, perspicuity of expression, and stylistic elegance conspicuous in the writings of author and economist John Kenneth Galbraith, whose four dozen books and countless other publications continue to provide an important and incisive commentary on the American social, intellectual and political scene (pen.org).

Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction — Winner 2017 — This yearly prize of $15,000 is awarded for a distinguished and appropriately documented book of nonfiction by an American author that is not eligible for consideration in any other [Pulitzer Prize] category (pulitzer.org)

Students and faculty in the Sociology Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison gather in the Sewell Social Science Building to hear Desmond speak on Nov. 2, 2016 (Photo by Bryce Richter / UW-Madison).

HONORS, DISTINCTIONS, AND PRAISE

The Boston Globe Review “There have been many well-received urban ethnographies in recent years […] Desmond’s “Evicted’’ surely deserves to takes it place among these. It is an exquisitely crafted, meticulously researched exploration of life on the margins, providing a voice to people who have been shamefully ignored — or, worse, demonized — by opinion makers over the course of decades”

Buzzfeed’s 14 Of The Most Buzzed-About Books Of 2016 “Evicted paints a detailed and heartbreaking portrait of the country’s eviction problem, and how it feeds into a cycle of poverty”

The Guardian’s Best Holiday Reads 2016 “An essential piece of reportage about poverty and profit in urban America”

The Financial Times Review “It is eloquent, too, on the harm eviction does — not just to individuals but also to communities and to the quality of civic and urban life”

The L.A. Time’s 10 Most Important Books of 2016 “Desmond, now a Harvard professor, has a close-up empathy that makes the book lasting”

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Review “It is a magnificent, richly textured book with a Tolstoyan approach: telling it like it is but with underlying compassion and a respect for the humanity of each character, major or minor”

Minneapolis StarTribune Review “With a relentless realism, Desmond returns to the speed and violence of the eviction process itself — a subject that elicits his most evocative writing. He captures the humiliation of it all”

Mother Jones Evicted is a rich, empathetic feat of storytelling and fieldwork”

The New York Times Ten Best Books of 2016 “Desmond’s empathetic and scrupulously researched book reintroduces the concept of “exploitation” into the poverty debate, showing how eviction, like incarceration, can brand a person for life”

The New York Times Best Seller

The New York Times Critics’ Top Books of 2016 “I’ve come to think of “Evicted” as a comet book — the sort of thing that swings around only every so often, and is, for those who’ve experienced it, pretty much impossible to forget”

The Pulitzer Prize Board “A deeply researched exposé that show[s] how mass evictions after the 2008 economic crash were less a consequence than a cause of poverty”

Rebecca Skloot, author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks “Beautiful, harrowing, and deeply human, Evicted is a must read for anyone who cares about social justice in this country. I loved it”

Vice Reviews “The poverty of others brings up terrible questions of there-but-for-the-grace-of-God and what if, were your circumstances or skin colour or gender different, that could be you. Your gaze pulls away. But Desmond writes so powerfully and with such persuasive math that he turns your head back and keeps it there: Yes, it could be you”

Vulture’s 8 Books You Need to Read this Month “Living and reporting among Milwaukee’s destitute, intimately getting to know eight families as well as two landlords, Desmond toggles between the numbers and the people, focusing on the daily struggle while keeping the big picture in the frame”

 

These were just a few of the most noteworthy honors for Evicted; the positive feedback is truly astounding and we are so proud of Matthew and his work! We are eager to see what distinctions come next.

 

Morgan Olsen

Student Assistant, Go Big Read Office

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)

 

Art and Go Big Read: How Curriculum, Creativity, and Evicted Intersect on Campus

This week Wisconsin School of Business students and the Go Big Read program 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.

LEAD students creating their prints in Wheelhouse Studios.

LEAD focused on printmaking as a way of securing social change, in partnership with the Go Big Read program

LEAD focused on printmaking as a way of securing social change.

Students part of the LEAD Course: Principles in Leadership, Ethics, Authenticity, and Development (an introductory program for freshman students directly admitted to the Business School) throughout the  semester have “engaged in social entrepreneurship projects aimed at helping solve societal problems” (Angela Richardson, Program Coordinator). One of the main focuses of the course was the integration of Go Big Read texts Just Mercy and Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City.

Art created by LEAD students in partnership with the Go Big Read Program.

Art created by LEAD students.

Reading these texts as part of their curriculum, students were asked throughout the semester “to make an effort to identify the major themes and important takeaways” of the books, as they related to social justice and inequalities (bus.wisc.edu). Noting striking statistics, imagery, and more, “the information [students] gathered and the ideas they generated were then used as inspiration” for the artistic project.

Earlier this week, in Memorial Union’s Wheelhouse Studios, all this prep and brainstorming came to fruition. Drawing on inspiration from historical and current social justice movement posters and evoking their own knowledge from the texts, all 120 students implemented their creativity, collaboratively hand-making 20 beautiful posters.

The project not only allows “students to practice a set of skills that are useful in both business and in life – collaboration, analysis, communication, leadership, creative thinking, and empathy, among others [–]” but, it also gives first year students the opportunity to grapple with challenging social issues like mass incarceration and housing instability in American today.

thumbnail_img_0176

Art created by LEAD students in partnership with the Go Big Read Program.

Furthermore, “by working together in small groups to design and create their own posters, they add their voices to the on-going dialogue around these issues”, contributing to a more aware and concerned campus community (bus.wisc.edu).

We are eager to see what the next set of LEAD students creates in partnership with the Go Big Read program!

 

Morgan Olsen

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

Reliving Matthew Desmond’s Visit

Matthew Desmond, author of Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, visited this past Tuesday, November 1st, giving eager students, faculty, and community members an informative and engaging presentation.

The much anticipated keynote event for UW’s 2016 Go Big Read program had motivated people to claim their spot in line as much as two hours before doors opened.Ready with tickets in hand, guests quickly congregated in the entrance, main hall, and lobby of Memorial Union, waiting for the doors of Shannon Hall to open. Others also awaited at several livestream locations across campus and the Madison area, eager to hear the UW alum speak, and, still more, enthusiastically awaited the start of the livestream feed from the comfort of their own home, with laptops in hand.

The line to enter Shannon Hall looped around the corner in the hall of Memorial Union. Enthusiastic UW senior, Maddie Colbert, gives the camera a thumbs up.

Enthusiastic UW senior, Maddie Colbert, gives the camera a thumbs up as she waits to enter the theatre.

The crowd was excited when UW Chancellor Becky Blank took the stage to introduce Desmond. She noted on the broad reach of the program, with over 225 participating classes, and the overwhelming response the text has received. As she shared, “Matt shows the devastating consequences of eviction” and she warmly welcomed him onto the stage. Desmond himself took to the podium, with clicker and slides ready, to share his experiences and research with the crowd.

Becky Blank introduces Desmond at the Go Big Read 2016 Keynote.

Becky Blank introduces Desmond at the Go Big Read 2016 Keynote.

Desmond framed his lecture with the story of one of the eight families he worked with while in Milwaukee, the story of single-mother Arleene and her two sons, Jori and Jafaris. Coupled with compelling images and revealing statistics, he explained that Arleene is not alone with her housing struggles. Like many other low income families, she spends at least 80% of her income on rent, leaving her and her children with little to none for other living necessities like food and clothes.

One of Arleene's homes in Milwaukee.

One of Arleene’s homes in Milwaukee.

Desmond emphasized how eviction affects the young and the old, the sick and the able-bodied alike. Recounting how Jafaris got mad and violent with a teacher at school, prompting a police visit to their home that nearly ensured her an eviction, Desmond highlighted the wide grasp eviction has on all parts of life.

While on stage, the author also touched on the long term consequences of eviction. Given that all evictions are recorded and publicly visible on the Wisconsin Court public records database, finding a home thereafter is nearly impossible. Arleene herself called nearly ninety apartments before one finally accepted her application. The link between mental health and housing stability was discussed, too. Desmond alerted the crowd to the increased rate of depression among mothers following an eviction, and the rising rate of suicides.

The author stressed throughout his presentation that one’s home is the center of life, a refuge from work, school, and the menace of the streets. It’s where we play and retreat; it’s where we settle down. The word for home in different languages evokes warmth, family, and community. Eviction, he asserted, can cause the loss of all of this.

The issues discussed were heavy and disheartening – what can be done to change the crisis? Desmond closed his talk with a call to action, with hope for the future of the housing landscape. What if all families had housing? Kids could be fed, kept off the street and in their schools; parents could better maintain a stable job and healthy environment for their children.

He directed the audience to his organization Just Shelter, where all may stay informed and get involved with organizations working to fight this problem. He encouraged students to get involved with organizations on-campus, such as Habitat for Humanity, or those off campus, such as Wisconsin Partnership for Housing Project and Fair Housing Center of Greater Madison. His hope that as years pass, we come to hate poverty, eviction, and homelessness more and more and for all of us – students, faculty, and community members alike – to participate, continue discussion, and actively work to correct this issue that directly affects the very communities we live in.

 

Ana Wong

Intern, UW-Madison Libraries & Go Big Read Program

(Cover photo by Bryce Richter / UW-Madison)

H(O)me: Understanding Opioid Addiction and Housing Consequences

Earlier this month, an unlikely pair, President Barack Obama and rapper Macklemore, teamed up to address an increasingly dire issue in America: opioid addiction. The two appeared on the South Lawn in promotion of an MTV documentary, “Prescription for Change: Ending America’s Opioid Crisis,” that addresses the overwhelming epidemic of opioid drug abuse in the US today, which ranges from the abuse of pain killers to heroin to Fentanyl (Sandra Gonzales, CNN). Within the film, the pair and recovering addicts share their own experiences with drug use in hopes of educating millennials about the consequences of addiction and to dissuade all of opioid abuse.

This new documentary and presidential focus on opioid addiction stems from the increasing abuse of opioids in the past 10 to 12 years. Since 2000 there has been a 200% increase in opioid related drug overdoses across the country. In certain regions, including Appalachia, New England, and the Southwest, these numbers are even more dramatic. For instance, based on a New York Times inquiry, New Mexico has been dramatically hit by the issue, where there were 27.3 opioid related deaths per 100,000 in 2014. This figure compares to the national average of 14.7 opioid related deaths per 100,000 in the same year. What’s most shocking however, is perhaps how both of these numbers contrast to the figures we saw only ten years ago: opioid related overdose deaths have increased more than 2 times since 2003, when there were only 6.2 opioid related deaths per 100,000 (cdc.gov).

Not only has abuse increased, but the demographics surrounding opioid addiction has dramatically changed. In the 1980s and 1990s opioid use was equally split between racial minorities and whites and was often focused in urban, inner city areas. Today, use has morphed—as President Obama highlights, “the opioids crisis is getting into communities that are suburban, that are relatively well to do, rural communities, white communities” (Sandra Gonzales, CNN). The new faces of opioid and heroin addiction are mostly suburban and rural whites from lower-middle class to upper-middle class families.

us_timeline-_prescription_opioid_pain_reliever_deaths

The graph indicates the number of deaths from prescription opioid pain relievers, not including non-prescribed opioids like heroin, in America the last 15 years.

The overall increase and shift in demographics leads many to conclude that prescription pain-killers are to blame. Often easily offered to middle class suburbanites, drugs like Hydrocodone and Oxycodone have become over-prescribed. This over-access to narcotics has provided a stepping stone to addiction and possibly spurred the opioid epidemic as a whole. As Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy has highlighted, “prescriptions for powerful painkillers have risen to the point that there’s enough for every American adult to have a bottle of pills” (Alexandra Sifferlin, TIME). This is astounding, especially when considering that other countries—where drugs like Vicodin are not readily prescribed—tend to witness lower opioid abuse levels. In the United States around 6% of Americans practice opioid use while countries with more restrictive practices (where only 0.5% of the population has a prescription to use) see a mere 2% use level. In fact, the US, which constitutes only 5% of the world population, receives a whopping 80% of the world’s prescription opioid supply (Michael Zennie, The Daily Mail). The prescription levels of narcotics also correlates to increased abuse of opioids on the state level.  For example, states like West Virginia and Tennessee in Appalachia and Nevada and Utah in the Southwest see both above average narcotic prescription rates and large amounts of opioid abuse and overdose (Haeyoun Park and Matthew Bloch, The New York Times). In West Virginia, for instance, there were around 120 prescriptions written for opioids in 2014 for every 100 people; meanwhile, in Minnesota, a state that has remained largely removed from the opioid epidemic, there were only 60 prescriptions per 100 (cdc.gov).

Outside the data, average Americans are taking notice of the opioid epidemic, too. In recent years, the drug abuse issue has become more visible to the public both in terms of neighborhood visibility and national media coverage. For instance, most millennials today are able to identify a friend or relative that has abused opioids in some capacity. Nationally, much attention was given to the premature passing of pop star Prince, who overdosed on Fentanyl this summer. This increasing visibility has been quite acute for my own hometown of Chanhassen, Minnesota, where within a year the community grieved the loss of both a beloved classmate and a local leader, Prince, to opioid overdose.

Prince overdosed on Fentanyl this summer in his Paisley Park studio in Minnesota.

Prince overdosed on Fentanyl this summer in his Paisley Park studio in Minnesota.

The visibility of opioid use itself has reached previously unprecedented levels, especially with heroin. The New York Times notes users openly abusing heroin in public spaces, like on city buses or even in fast food bathrooms, while leaving children unattended (Katharine Q. Seelye, The New York Times). Many average Americans are experiencing opioid addiction and abuse right before their eyes.

The opioid epidemic is also recognized in our own community in Wisconsin. As the Badger Herald explored last winter, many UW-Madison community members have struggled with opioid addiction and the state as a whole has witnessed increased opioid use and overdose in recent years. As the graphics below demonstrate, heroin cases in Wisconsin have increased from 2009 to 2014 in over half of the state’s counties; the number of counties with 30 or more cases related to heroin has jumped from a mere 4 in 2009 to a whopping 11 counties in 2014.

2009 Heroin Cases by County in Wisconsin. Wisconsin Dept. of Justice.

2009 Heroin Cases by County in Wisconsin. Wisconsin Dept. of Justice.

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20014 Heroin Cases by County in Wisconsin. Wisconsin Dept. of Justice.

As the Herald explains, often times abuse can have serious and unexpected consequences, affecting almost every aspect of one’s life. Mentally, addiction can lead to depression, and possibly brain damage. If untreated, these debilitating outcomes of abuse can influence a wide range of important life factors, including the ability to keep employment, sustain personal relationships, or attend school. Meanwhile, on the flip side, the instability of addiction often leads many to lose their income and the support of friends and family members. Frequently this loss of financial and emotional support comes at the worst time, plummeting many further into addiction. One can see how these factors create a vicious and debilitating cycle of abuse. Other consequences of addiction include family dissolution and the removal of children from the home, aggression and violence, lack of appropriate diet and nutrition, and the establishment of unstable and toxic drug-based relationships.

However, one particularly serious consequence of opioid addiction is housing instability and homelessness. Often times many users are left without the proper income to maintain their home, pay utility costs, or pay their often unjustly high rent costs. This consequence of opioid addiction was seen first hand in Evicted, this year’s Go Big Read book by Matthew Desmond. The portrait of Scott demonstrated the debilitating consequences of drug abuse—his opioid addiction led him, like many others, to housing instability.

Many residents of XXX Trailer Park on the South Side of Milwaukee faced opioid drug addiction.

Many residents of College Mobile Home Park on the South Side of Milwaukee faced opioid drug addiction.

Scott started off his opioid problem like many Americans: with a prescription to Percocet after an injury. Wisconsin, like a majority of states, has a middle of the road opioid prescription level, with roughly 75 narcotics prescriptions per 100 people (cdc.gov). It was standard enough for Scott to receive the opioids, but unfortunately, he was soon hooked. Within the first few weeks of taking the medication, he started to look at the doctor as a “treasure […], like a bartender who pours to the rim”(Evicted, p. 83). He returned often to refill. However, once the M.D. announced his retirement, Scott went into a panic; he needed Percocet to cope with both his physical and emotional pain and he didn’t know what he would do without it. As the Badger Herald explains, this progression of use to abuse is common. Painkillers like Percocet can be extra addictive because they not only create a euphoric and relaxed feeling, but cause the body to stop producing natural levels of dopamine, the “happiness” chemical. For people who are taking a prescription for a few weeks, like Scott, “the body stops producing dopamine and the medication ends up as the body’s only source” of the needed chemical (Emma Palasz, The Badger Herald). The body ends up requiring the opioid to produce any dopamine. Thus Scott, depressed and in need, turned to alternatives: he first purchased painkillers from his nursing home patients and eventually abused Fentanyl, the same drug that killed Prince.

fentanyl is part of the opioid epidemic in america

Fentanyl, the drug Scott abused, is part of the opioid epidemic in America.

His Fentanyl addiction became all consuming and came with consequences—Scott lost his nursing licence and thus flow of income. He was then evicted from his upscale apartment on the East Side of Milwaukee. Discouraged and hopeless, Scott checked into The Lodge, a shelter, and eventually moved into the mobile home park with his friend Teddy (Evicted, p. 84). In the park, he found many fellow addicts and began abusing methadone pills and later heroin. Upon eviction from the park, he continued on a road of temporary and unstable housing and the cycle of sobriety, relapse, and addiction.

It was only after Scott was able to find a permanent and stable residence that he was able to kick his drug addiction completely, highlighting the strong connection between opioid abuse and housing precariousness. Although he still did not have his nursing license or a set income, he was able to find assistance through the Guest House, a shelter, that provided him with $600 a month for rent and furnishings for his new apartment. As he explains, in the trailer park in his sub-standard housing, he felt stuck, like there was no hope. In his new space, “[he] felt affirmed, deserving of something better” (Evicted, p. 280). Scott was able to get back on track, writing out a 5 year plan that included getting his nursing license back.

As the story of Scott and Evicted demonstrates, the opioid epidemic and housing instability go hand in hand. Although Scott’s story began with opioid abuse, which later led to eviction, often times eviction itself can lead to a string of terrible consequences that pushes many to drug abuse. Either way, eviction is a painful and destabilizing reality that many face. Those that have been evicted have a 15% higher chance of being laid off than workers without displacement. Those that have experienced eviction face 20% higher levels of material hardship than those that have not. Those that have been forced to move are 25% more likely to experience future housing instability (Evicted, p.294-5). It is apparent that eviction has dire consequences for many that lead to severe instability and possibly homelessness. As such, whether an opioid abuser or not, home displacement contributes to the desire for escape and fosters an environment that is conducive to addiction. Unfortunately, both opioid abuse and eviction in a sense play into one another.

However, hopefully with increasing measures to curb both the opioid epidemic and eviction levels in America, needed changes with both abuse and displacement are to come. It was recently announced that MARS, Desmond’s own innovative and effective survey for measuring eviction, will be integrated into HUD’s national American Housing Survey, providing meaningful understanding about eviction on a national level. Meanwhile, President Obama and legislators have been pushing strongly in the past year to combat opioid addiction, passing major legislation last spring to help curb the epidemic. Hopefully, change will come on both fronts.

 

Morgan Olsen

Student Assistant, Go Big Read Program