The part on disposable ties is pretty interesting.


Desmond has seen dozens of cases where tenants don’t know their rights, don’t understand the process, and are given conflicting or inaccurate information. In eviction proceedings, most landlords have legal representation, while most tenants do not. For this reason, he advocates increasing access to free legal counsel for tenants.

Very often, his policy suggestions are grounded in trends turned up by his ethnographic research. After observing case after case in which a relatively small unplanned expense led to a missed rent payment and, ultimately, eviction, he also supports the idea of one-time grants for families experiencing temporary financial hardship. (He writes, for example, of one woman evicted from the trailer park who fell behind in her rent after paying her gas bill because she wanted to be able to take hot showers.) With examples like this, he aims to show that every day, poor people are forced to make choices among items that middle-class Americans take for granted, and sometimes must even choose between basic needs, because they can’t afford them all in the same month.

Through his books, articles, and newspaper op-ed essays, he tries to get readers to reexamine how they think about poverty and issues of race. One important point he stresses is that poverty is not innate or permanent, but rather, is influenced by social structures and relationships, such as that between landlord and tenant. “A lot of people talk about poverty like it’s a permanent state of being,” he says, “like the poor are a plant variety.” Instead, he says, poverty is a process that involves a victim, a system that produces poverty, and people who benefit from that system—and he challenges each of us to recognize our role.

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