I am not sure if I had said this before, but I grew up in rural Wisconsin. My mom and dad grew up in rural Iowa and Minnesota respectively. I grew up about 45 minutes from Milwaukee, and thought that it is what a big city really was. That was until I lived in a squat studio in Chicago, crawling with roaches.
Reading through “Evicted” I would make note of where the locations were, and if I ever was in that area. I was frequently in Milwaukee. Whether is was visiting friends at Marquette, when I was older, or going downtown with my dad to the hospital he worked at, St. Luke’s. I just loved this town. This book was my favorite read. I felt like I connected more to it, and that at times it highlighted how much disparity was present in one of my favorite places.
As you hear about the conditions that the people in this book lived in, and compare it to the places that you have, and do live, you clearly see how important housing is in the lives of all of us. I grew up in a good home, with loving parents, and 3 older brothers. I left the loving off of that part, because while they are all good men, growing up in a pack of boys like that, love wasn’t a word used often. I love them all now, just not when I was getting beat up. Our house wasn’t anything great, and the yard is where we spent most of our time. We had food, but everything I had was largely a hand-me-down from Matt, my oldest brother. I thought my parents were just frugal, but looking back I know there was more to it. Between our one income house, the family of 6, the distance we lived from my dad’s job to find affordable housing in good condition, my parents provided all they could.
However, the lives of those in the book are much closer to the students and the families I served in Chicago and Orlando. In Chicago the number of people living in a brownstone was unbelievable. The fact that you would see wires running out of each walk-up that was stealing electricity or cable showed that people were going to be creative to do what it took to survive. In Orlando there was a neighborhood a few blocks from our of our middle schools where most of the students came from. Between Parramore and Catalina there were a number of houses that rarely had running water, the electricity would turned on and off regularly, but they still allowed people to live there, children would come to school on a regular basis because that was the one place that was constant in their lives. It is so easy for people to drive by these places and just see the ugly buildings and feel pity for anyone living there. I now drive by these communities and understand the diversity of people living there. Everyone with their different experiences, goals, and ambitions. The children living there, and for the most part not knowing much else, and thinking their situation is normal.
For a while I lived in that studio in Chicago. Mold in hallways, bugs in the studio, one big room with a dumpy stove and sink on the edge of it. A hallway that was about 3 feet long to my crappy bathroom with the leaky tub and sink. The constant cleaning I would have to do to keep the mold at bay. The carpet that covered the floor covered in splatters of paint, burn marks, and stains showed that no one had cared to update the space, and why would you if the tenants accepted these conditions. My built in AC unit was there for show, and the building managed heat meant I had to open my window in the winter to not pass out from the extreme heat of my place. I noticed all these issues at first, but soon I learned to watch TV with a can of roach killer at my feet, I learned to to keep a kitchen to limit the bug problem, and I just ended up living my life in that space. We quickly adjust, and quickly accept our life the way it is. That might be the biggest challenge to taking the steps to improve the issue (Aside from the obvious challenge of it not benefiting anyone to actually change it other than those living in it), that we can adjust and accept less than decent conditions in a home.