Building Community through Books

Thursday, February 23, 2017


Contributor: Lalu Beré, Resource Development Officer at United Way Fox Cities

“Eviction is a cause, not just a condition, of poverty.” This quote comes from the best-selling book Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond. I recently read the book and was deeply affected by the real-life stories of families struggling to find and keep affordable housing, especially after experiencing one or more evictions.

In our own community, we average over 300 people, at any given moment, experiencing some form of homelessness. Many more face housing insecurity every day. According to the ALICE study, 42% of Wisconsin households can’t afford the basics of housing, food, health care, child care, and transportation, despite being employed.

Recognizing the gravity of this issue in the Fox Cities, the Appleton Public Library worked with five community organizations to choose Evicted for the current Books Build Community series. Books Build Community fosters shared experiences around a specific book, through formal book clubs and informal book discussions in living rooms, work places, and around town. The selected books expand dialogue around community initiatives.

Last Thursday, I attended the first of two Books Build Community discussions. What did I learn? That housing is a very complicated issue. We talked about the shortage of affordable housing in our area, as well as the difficulty of house hunting without a car, cell phone, or other resources. We heard from property managers and owners who shared their mixed emotions about eviction and frustrations with the legal system. Community members expressed empathy imagining caring for kids without safe, stable homes to return to every night. We all agreed that real, mutual respect is needed to understand all points of view on the issue and come up with solutions.

If you’d like to participate in the second Books Build Community discussion about Evicted, join friends and neighbors tonight at Appleton Public Library from 5:30 – 7:00 p.m. All are welcome. Tonight’s focus will be on local realities and strategies to address evictions and housing insecurity in the Fox Cities.  If you can’t make it tonight, join the conversation on Facebook to learn about other local events and participate in a virtual discussion.