by Matthew Desmond

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Evicted Characters

The main characters in Evicted include Matthew Desmond, Sherrena Tarver, and Doreen Hinkston.

  • Matthew Desmond is the author of Evicted. While conducting research on poverty and housing for his PhD, he moved into the College Mobile Home Park, where he began recording the stories of struggling tenants.
  • Sherenna Tarver is an inner-city landlord who owns more than a dozen properties in Milwaukee. Matthew Desmond profiles several of her tenants, all of whom are evicted.
  • Doreen Hinkston lives with her children and grandchildren in an apartment owned by Sherenna. After receiving an eviction notice, she agrees to a costly stipulation agreement.


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Matthew Desmond

Desmond was born and raised in Arizona, the son of a preacher and a working mother. His family was lower-middle class, and his father hammered into him the idea that, if he was going to escape their financial circumstances, he would have to graduate from college. Desmond originally thought he'd become a lawyer but then fell in love with sociology. While away at college, his parents lost their house, and Desmond began to think critically about the relationship between poverty and the American housing market. He enrolled in a PhD program at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and began conducting field research in May 2008. He moved into the College Mobile Home Park, where he met Tobin, Scott, Larraine, Pam, and Ned. He also became friends with a security guard named Woo, who offered to split the rent with him on an apartment in North Side. When Pam and the others were all evicted, Desmond took Woo up on his offer. His new landlord was Sherrena. It was through her that he met Arleen, Lamar, Doreen, Patrice, Crystal, and the other tenants. For the next year, he shadowed Sherrena and recorded the private lives of his research subjects.

Sherrena and Quentin Tarver

Sherrena was a schoolteacher when Quentin pulled her over for a traffic stop. Four years later, the two were still going strong, but Sherrena was unhappy at work and decided to make a change. She started a daycare, which was shut down, then turned to real estate, snapping up cheap properties in poor neighborhoods where rent was unfairly high. She quickly made a profit. This led her husband to quit his job as a police officer to become her property manager. By the time Desmond moves in, Sherrena already owns over a dozen properties; but she's ambitious, and she wants more out of her business. She begins offering other professional services to her tenants, helping them, for instance, improve their credit scores for a fee. Early on in the book, she hobnobs at a gathering of Milwaukee's landlords, hoping to manage their properties in Milwaukee's South Side. Sherrena's tenants include Lamar, Arleen, Doreen, Patrice, and Crystal. Of these, every single one of them is evicted.

Doreen, Patrice, and Natasha Hinkston

Doreen Hinkston rents the bottom half of the duplex across the street from Lamar's apartment. She lives there with her children, Patrice, Natasha, C.J., and Ruby, and grandchildren Mikey, Jada, and Kayla. Her landlord is Sherrena, who has little to no qualms with so many people living in a small apartment. Briefly, Patrice and her children lived in the upstairs unit, but when they were evicted, they moved back in with Doreen. The Hinkstons are a family that like to pull pranks on each other—for instance, smearing mayonnaise and ketchup on someone's sleeping face on the eve of their birthday. Natasha, the second oldest, gets pregnant too young, and resources become even thinner for the family. Sherrena evicts Doreen, but Doreen's social worker Tabatha convinces Sherrena to offer Doreen a stipulation agreement. For $400 the following month and $50 for three months after that, the eviction would be cleared, and Doreen would be allowed to stay. Doreen agrees, despite the fact that it leaves her out of money and unable to save up for a move.

Arleen, Jori, and Jafaris Belle

Arleen Belle is the first tenant introduced in Evicted. When readers meet her, she's being evicted from an apartment in Milwaukee's South Side. From there, she moves into a homeless shelter called the Lodge and rents a series of places before moving into a building owned by Sherrena in South Side. Her welfare check just barely covers her rent of $550 per month, and the rest of this check is eaten up by utilities, which aren't included. She quickly falls behind, and Sherrena is forced to take Arleen to eviction court. Arleen doesn't have a lawyer to act on her behalf, and she only says a few words in her defense. She's evicted but manages to sublet from Sherrena's new tenant, Crystal, a young and devout Christian with learning disabilities and several diagnosed psychological disorders, which make her unpredictable and violent. She and Arleen frequently fight, and Crystal (allegedly) calls Child Protective Services. Eventually, because Arleen is unable to find safe, suitable housing, Jori has to go live with Larry, and Jafaris is taken to live with Arleen's sister.

Tobin Charney

Tobin Charney is the owner of College Mobile Home Park. He's a gruff but not entirely unfeeling landlord, and he's known to be lenient when the mood strikes. Unfortunately, he can be quite hard on his tenants, and when they don't pay the rent he bangs on their doors and harasses their children if need be. Author Matthew Desmond was inspired to move into the trailer park after seeing a news segment about the horrible conditions there. Charney had skimped on maintenance, refusing to provide tenants with city-approved trash cans, and allowed a puddle of raw sewage to develop in the park. He paid his tenants to clean it up instead of hiring professionals. His tenants include Larraine, Scott, Teddy (Scott's patient), and Pam and Ned's family. Tobin eventually evicts all of them. Desmond decides to move in with Woo, one of the security guards at the trailer park, shortly after those evictions.

Pam and Ned

Pam and Ned live in the College Mobile Home Park. Between them, Pam and Ned have three children from previous relationships, in addition to one on the way. Prior to moving in, Ned demanded that Pam order a paternity test to prove that the child was his. Pam's pregnancy doesn't change the fact that Pam and Ned are drug addicts, however, and their addiction leaves them largely incapable of caring for their children. When they're evicted from the trailer park, they have some trouble finding an apartment, but landlords in Milwaukee show preference to them because they are white. Eventually, they move into a house with their children. Ned is abusive, and while Pam recognizes she is in a bad situation, her financial troubles prevent her from leaving.


Scott grew up on a dairy farm in Iowa. He knew from an early age that he was gay, but he had a hard time finding companionship in his small town. He moved to Milwaukee, where he became a nurse. He worked for a time at an assisted living facility but injured his back after years of pulling the elderly out of their wheelchairs. He quickly became addicted to the painkillers he was given. In order to satisfy his addiction, he began stealing fentanyl—a very strong painkiller, much more powerful than morphine, and much harder to acquire. He was eventually caught by hospital staff. His nursing license was suspended, and the strict guidelines for reinstatement (at least five years of rehabilitation, with at least weekly drug tests) made it impossible for him to return to work. He lost everything, became homeless, and started doing hard drugs. Eventually he moved into Jerry's trailer at the College Mobile Home Park, becoming Jerry's in-home caregiver. When Jerry and Scott were evicted, Scott turned to friends. He was allowed to live and work in a hotel, but he lost the job after a needle was found in his motel room. He later checked into rehab and got clean with the help of methadone treatments.


Larraine is a tub-bellied, fastidious white woman who suffers from fibromyalgia and lives in the College Mobile Home Park. She's known for keeping her trailer spotless and not wearing glasses out of vanity. Her welfare check barely covers her rent at the trailer park, and she struggles to pay her utility bills. This results in her gas being cut off. One month, she spends her entire check on a feast including lobster tails, shrimp, crab legs, and lemon meringue pie in honor of her anniversary with her ex-boyfriend Glen, who died of a drug overdose in prison. Larraine has a daughter, Jamey, whom she asks for money, but Jamey is in no position to help. Larraine is evicted.

Crystal Mayberry

Crystal Mayberry was born in 1990. Her mother was a crack addict, and when Crystal was a child, her mother was stabbed in a bank robbery. Crystal was later diagnosed with several psychological disorders, including bipolar disorder. When she moved in with Arleen, Crystal was eighteen years old and living on her own. She'd begun attending prayer meetings and was a devout Christian but was often violent and erratic. She became a sex worker, and her "boyfriend" advised her to raise the rent on Arleen. This put strain on the living arrangement. Eventually, Sherrena evicted them both, citing Crystal's illegal sublease. Crystal moved into the Lodge, where she met Vanetta and paired up with her to split costs on a new apartment. This didn't last long, however. Crystal was arrested for assault, and Vanetta was put on trial for robbery. Vanetta was sentenced to fifteen months, and Crystal was homeless again.

Vanetta Evans

Vanetta Evans is introduced late in the book. She and Crystal meet at the Lodge after Crystal is evicted by Sherrena. Crystal and Vanette team up, much as Crystal and Arleen did, in order to rent a place together and split rent. Crystal is unstable, however, and their fights are loud and frequent. One day, an acquaintance from the Lodge comes by, and Crystal throws her through a window. In the wake of Crystal's arrest, Vanetta throws her out to appease their landlord. The vengeful Crystal then calls Child Protective Services. Vanetta scrambles to support her children. Unfortunately, she has to stand trial for a robbery she committed while desperate to support her children. She's sentenced to fifteen months in jail and sixty-six months of supervision. Her children will live with her family.

Mrs. Mytes

Mrs. Mytes lives in the College Mobile Home Park. When a particularly messy tenant moves out, Tobin asks Mrs. Mytes to clear out the trailer. She wears gloves as she cleans up the urine-matted carpet, the overflowing ashtrays, the flypaper on the ceiling, and the toilet. Tobin pays her $20.

Lenny Lawson

Lenny lives and works at the College Mobile Home Park. Tobin pays him $36,000 a year to manage the day-to-day affairs of the trailer park. When Tobin is forced to hire an outside management firm after allowing a puddle of sewage to develop in the park, Lenny fears for his job. He and Office Susie are both fired.

Office Susie

Office Susie works at the College Mobile Home Park, collecting the rent and managing the office for Tobin. After a new management firm takes over operations, Office Susie and Lenny are both fired.

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