Last week, a four-day Journal Times series detailed the effects evictions have on the community.
At the base of the series was the fact that Racine County and the City of Racine have the highest eviction rates in the state, according to statistics from the Princeton University Eviction Lab, which used court records and U.S. Census data.
In 2016, Racine County had a rate of 3.8 percent, while the city’s rate was 5.56 percent. Statewide, the rate was 1.89 percent.
The series started in Racine County Circuit Court with judges presiding over dozens of eviction cases, where many renters were unable to afford representation and unable to legally argue their cases.
It ended in a warehouse in Milwaukee, where items are piled practically up to the ceiling. The items were all left behind when people were evicted and in many cases renters are unable to afford to get those belongings back.
It’s a traumatic experience, which leads to consequences down the road, particularly for children.
Holly Moore, a social worker at Case High School who has worked with many children who have gone through evictions, said these students typically struggle with confidence, don’t attend classes as regularly as their peers with stable housing and can suffer mental health issues.
“I think that comes from that constant sense of living in fear,” Moore said.
That can also lead students to drop out of school later, because after multiple moves they stop trying to form connections and lack investment in schooling, according to Matthew Desmond, a Princeton University sociologist and founder of The Eviction Lab.
Those consequences are sad to think about and it’s something the community needs to start talking about seriously.
Through the series, some ideas to help were brought up.
For instance, in Racine County, evicted people almost always represent themselves in court. In New York City, low-income individuals are guaranteed the right to an attorney to represent them in front of a judge in eviction cases, as of August 2017.
That is one idea to consider.
In addition, the issue of evictions needs to be discussed as part of the larger issue of housing in Racine County that is going on right now with Foxconn coming to town and bringing with it up to 13,000 new jobs.
Those workers need housing and if new quality housing is not built, it’s going to further squeeze the current housing stock, likely resulting in more evictions as rent prices increase.
Racine County Executive Jonathan Delagrave said rents have already increased north and south of Racine County. An increase here became inevitable.
But as this happens, Delagrave said, “We want to make sure individuals living paycheck-to-paycheck will be able to afford the increase.”
“The grand solution,” Delagrave said, “is getting everyone at the table and putting the puzzle together to get the best housing available for all incomes.”
That is what the community needs to do. This conversation shouldn’t end with a four-day series. This should be the beginning.