“Evicted” Author wins Pulitzer Prize for work on homelessness, housing affordability


April 11, 2017

You may have heard the great news: Author Matthew Desmond this week was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in the nonfiction category for his groundbreaking book Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City.
The award brought to mind an event that was held almost a year ago: CHN joined our friends at the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) and the National Housing Conference in hosting Desmond, who at a special event in Washington, D.C. discussed his recently released book and the problems of homelessness and affordable housing in the U.S.

In researching his book, Desmond in 2008 and 2009 followed eight Milwaukee families through the eviction process and its aftermath. Some of the families were white; some were African American. Some included children, others did not. But each family’s story had one thing in common: it involved a complicated mosaic of poverty in a land of plenty, and a downward spiral that led from poverty to eviction to worse poverty to more dangerous neighborhoods to ever-more dilapidated housing with lead poisoning, broken fixtures and, sometimes, no heat or utilities such as running water.

“There is no other democracy that has the depth of poverty that we have and the extent of poverty that we have,” Desmond said at the event. “We can’t fix poverty in America without fixing housing.”

You can read a recap of the presentation here.

Meanwhile, it is important to keep in mind that even as the Pulitzer Committee rewards Desmond for his good work, we face a crisis in public housing in the U.S. – and it could get worse before it gets better. President Trump has proposed cutting the budget of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) by 13 percent, or by more than $6 billion, in FY 2018.

NLIHC, a CHN affiliate, explains what is at stake:

“If enacted, Trump’s proposed budget would result in the most severe cut to HUD since President Reagan dramatically reduced funding in the early 1980s. Reagan’s deep spending cuts ushered in a new age of homelessness with a dramatic increase in the number of people sleeping on the streets, in cars, and in shelters. Years after those shortsighted and devastating cuts, a major infusion of resources were needed for homeless shelters and services. President Trump seems eager to follow in Mr. Reagan’s footsteps, repeating his mistakes and working to make America homeless again.

“These budget cuts would have a devastating impact on millions of the lowest income people across the country. More than 200,000 seniors, families, and people with disabilities will be at immediate risk of evictions and homelessness, and local communities will be starved of the funding they need to build and repair affordable homes and revitalize distressed communities.”

Going back to Desmond:

“A problem as big as the affordable housing crisis calls for a big solution,” Desmond says. “We have the money. We’ve just made choices about how to spend it.”

Budget and Appropriations
Housing and Homelessness
Matthew Desmond
Poverty and Income