‘It Touches You…It’s Traumatic’–The Effects of Eviction and Housing Insecurity on Kids

Bridge Magazine reporter Chastity Pratt Dawsey opens up about her own childhood evictions in raw conversation on Detroit Today.

A row of houses in Highland Park

Highland Park


This Wednesday, the Detroit Today team is having another in-community book club meeting for their summer reading of Matthew Desmond’s Pulitzer Prize-winning nonfiction book Evicted.

The event at the Ferndale Public Library at 6:30 p.m. will dive deep into how eviction and housing insecurity affect families and children.

That’s a theme that emerges vividly in the book, through the story of Arlene, one of the women who’s profiled by Desmond. She has two boys who, not surprisingly, sometimes cause mischief.

But because she has the boys, Arlene has a hard time finding landlords who’ll rent to her.

Kids, according to the landlords’ logic, mean trouble. And trouble can mean the police. And police could mean exposure of the poor living conditions provided by the landlords. It’s just not worth the risk.

So people like Arlene sometimes lie about having kids, or how many they have. And, ultimately, they wind up losing their homes.

It’s a horrifying cycle. And it takes a terrible toll on young minds.

According to researchers at the University of Michigan, our state has the sixth highest population of homeless children. Which means there are a lot of families here like Arlene’s — folks who get bounced around with their kids who can’t maintain a secure, reliable living situation for their families.

Bridge Magazine reporter Chastity Pratt Dawsey has covered young families who struggle in Detroit public schools, and whose personal story is also reflective of the housing insecurity that afflicts so many families.

Pratt Dawsey joins Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson to talk about her story and how it fits into what we know about housing insecurity, poverty, and their effects on children.

“I can count ten places that we lived,” says Pratt Dawsey, saying that does not include times she and her family stayed with relatives in the times in between having their own housing. “We moved every two, three years.”

“It touches you,” she continues. “It’s part of everyday life. I don’t want to say it’s a disease, but, it affects kids in a way that’s … it’s traumatic.”

Click on the audio player above to hear the full conversation.


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    Dynamic and diverse voices. News, politics, community and the issues that define our region. Hosted by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Stephen Henderson, Detroit Today brings you fresh and perceptive views weekdays at 9 am and 7 pm.