Desmond's widely celebrated, best-selling book chronicles the ceaseless cycle of "making rent, delaying eviction, or finding another place to live when homeless" through the frantic experiences of people like Crystal, 18, raised in more than two dozen foster homes, who carries three garbage bags of clothes whenever she moves; and Arleen, a single mother, who contacts more than 80 landlords in her search for a new home. In the process, children are scarred as they are pulled from one school to another and often lose what few possessions they can call their own. Adults have trouble keeping jobs, and for lack of a permanent address may become ineligible for any available benefits. Emphasizing that "all this suffering is shameful and unnecessary," the author celebrates the resilience and humanity of these families, and argues for universal housing vouchers and publicly funded legal services for the evicted. In an interview, Desmond said he and his wife have created a foundation to help the families in Evicted. His aim is to "find them better housing, address unmet medical needs, and quickly address crises, preventing one problem from spiraling into several."
Another recent book offering important insights into homelessness and poverty is sociologist Christopher Dum's Exiled in America: Life on the Margins in a Residential Motel, which describes a year in the life of "a location of last resort for individuals in search of affordable housing." The residents of Boardwalk Motel, located in an unidentified affluent white suburban community, arrive from prisons, shelters, and the back seats of cars. They include the mentally ill, disabled individuals, addicts, and registered sex offenders, thrown together in "a dumping ground for those deemed socially unacceptable."
Like Desmond, Dum evokes the lives of his subjects with empathy and compassion, noting that "the stigma of the motel was so blinding that people were unable to see residents as human beings." He makes clear that in recent years rising rates of incarceration, foreclosures, evictions, and homelessness have turned many motels into shelters for the marginalized.