Syracuse Takes Stock of Housing Instability Ahead of Visit by Award Winning Author of "Evicted"

Oct 18, 2018

This is where thousands of eviction cases in Syracuse are heard.
Credit Scott Willis / WAER News

Eviction, poverty, and housing instability are some of the biggest challenges facing Syracuse residents, and Pulitzer Prize winning author Matthew Desmond will be in Syracuse Tuesday evening to put it all in perspective.  He wrote the book “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City” that puts a microscope on poverty and eviction in America.  

Wendy Rhodes with Legal Services of Central New York says eviction is financially and psychologically traumatizing for those involved, and the community at large.

 "The invisible evictions we don't see, the forced moves that happen, even before someone would show up in court, are really detrimental for individuals and families.  But it's also destabilizing for entire communities.  Eviction can seem like an individual problem, but it's not.  We all suffer when people's homes aren't stable."

Rhodes says in Syracuse housing court, and in Desmond’s book, single mothers are most vulnerable. 

"Kids are kids.  Sometimes that can create a liability when you're living somewhere.  They can break something, or they can be loud.  Or you could have a lot going in your life, managing your family and your kids.  Those could all be exacerbating circumstances."

There are at least 11,000 evictions every year in Syracuse, and Legal Services of CNY provides free assistance to as many cases as they can.  Other agencies take on the more complicated cases.  The city tries to do its part by working with community partners that provide emergency funds or other help.   Samantha Linnett with the city’s Office of Innovation says the problem is complicated.

"Our housing costs in the city are relatively low, but so are average household incomes.  We have a big problem with poverty in the city.  Job availability, different types of job training and education are not always available.  Transportation to get to jobs for the shifts you need might not be accessible.  All compound on each other to create a tough challenge."

WAER took a close look at eviction for an episode of the City Limits poverty project.   Matthew Desmond's book was the the subject for the Syracuse Book Club's summer and fall reading leading up to Tuesday's event, which was organized by Legal Services.  Desmond will speak Tuesday, October 23rd beginning at 7:00 at Henninger High School.  Doors open at 6:30 for the free event.  Seating is first come, first served.  The event will include questions from the audience.