Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Thursday, April 18, 2024
Matthew Desmond, a UW-Madison alumnus, addressed a packed audience of more than 1,000 at Shannon Hall Tuesday about his time living with impoverished families in Milwaukee.

Matthew Desmond, a UW-Madison alumnus, addressed a packed audience of more than 1,000 at Shannon Hall Tuesday about his time living with impoverished families in Milwaukee.

‘Go Big Read’ author talks Milwaukee evictions, poverty

The Wisconsin Idea is based on the belief that UW-Madison students will take the knowledge they gain on campus and apply them to issues throughout the state. With his best-selling book “Eviction: Poverty and Profit in the American City,” alumnus Matthew Desmond took that idea to full effect.

Desmond, an associate professor at Harvard University, addressed an audience of more than 1,000 at Shannon Hall Tuesday about his time living with impoverished families in Milwaukee and shared the data he collected on their evictions and economic distress. Chancellor Rebecca Blank introduced Desmond, citing the success of his book as this year’s campus "Go Big Read."

The lecture focused on one family featured in Desmond’s book and how their story is representative of the American eviction epidemic.

Desmond delivered devastating statistics on how a growing number of tenants spend a majority of their income on rent, and how after evictions families’ housing and employment situations tend to deteriorate. He said one in eight renting households in Milwaukee is evicted each year, according to data he collected.

“Under those conditions, you don’t need to make a huge mistake or have a big emergency wash over your life to invite an eviction,” Desmond said. “For people like [this family], eviction is much more of a result of inevitability than personal irresponsibility.”

Desmond also talked about the historical events that have led to the rise in evictions, and how this increase has contributed to other economic issues.

“Evictions … are not just a condition of poverty, they’re a cause of it,” Desmond said. “Without stable shelter, everything else falls apart.”

Desmond then transitioned to a positive note and focused on policies to help alleviate evictions. He also encouraged students to visit www.justshelter.org to find out what housing assistance programs exist in their area. Desmond urged students of all disciplines to play a role in solving the issue.

“So, students, it’s my hope that as the years pass you come more and more to hate poverty, and to find ways of entangling your talents and your experiences in this problem,” Desmond said. “Experience the great problems of this world with your body and your soul. To me, that’s what the Wisconsin idea is all about.”

Enjoy what you're reading? Get content from The Daily Cardinal delivered to your inbox
Support your local paper
Donate Today
The Daily Cardinal has been covering the University and Madison community since 1892. Please consider giving today.

Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2024 The Daily Cardinal