Wisconsin Weekly: How evictions damage health — and how to avoid them

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Evictions and health; halting misinformation; armed activists inject danger; Trump campaign targeted Black Milwaukeeans for ‘deterrence’ in 2016


Of note: This week we highlight excellent reporting by Wisconsin Watch, WPR, Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service and multiple media partners to illuminate the connection between health and evictions.

For years, medical experts have tried to sound the alarm about how housing insecurity — including families doubling up or living in shelters — can damage psychological and physical health. Now, with the COVID-19 crisis, the connection has prompted the federal government to curb evictions for public health reasons. But that program requires many steps that renters must initiate, meaning some could still lose their homes.

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Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Watch

Robert and Stephanie Pettigrew are seen outside of their two-bedroom apartment in Milwaukee on Sept. 4. Robert, who has a mass on his lung, pursues odd jobs to help put food on the table after leaving a job at Motel 6 for fear that exposure to the coronavirus could trigger severe COVID-19 complications. The family narrowly avoided an eviction after Community Advocates, a nonprofit, provided more than $4,700 in emergency rental aid. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has since ordered a nationwide eviction moratorium through the end of 2020, hoping to slow the spread of the virus.

Evictions damage public health. The CDC aims to curb them — for now.

Wisconsin Watch/WPR/WBUR/Side Effects Public Media  — September 29, 2020

When Robert Pettigrew finally saw the sign in August, he believed the “good Lord” had placed him in front of it. The sign appeared months after a doctor advised the 52-year-old to stop manning the front desk at Motel 6 as a mass on his lung and bouts with pneumonia restricted his breathing. Pettigrew saw the sign after his 25-year-old daughter and her son moved into his Milwaukee apartment where Pettigrew was six months late on rent. After Wisconsin lifted a ban on most evictions during the coronavirus pandemic.

Hear Bram Sable-Smith’s story on WPR

Adam Carr/Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service

About half of Milwaukee County renters are considered rent-burdened, meaning they spend at least 30% of income on rent. Some 40% of African American renters in the four-county Milwaukee metro area spend more than half of their incomes on rent, compared to 21% of white households. Here, an eviction takes place in Milwaukee’s Burnham Park neighborhood in 2017.

‘Rent is still due’: What you need to know about the CDC’s order to pause residential evictions

Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service — September 29, 2020

The federal government on Sept. 4 published an emergency order to halt residential evictions through the end of 2020. Issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the moratorium seeks to curb the spread of COVID–19 and seasonal influenza — and lower risk of overcrowding homeless shelters in fall and winter.

In related coverage, see Wisconsin Watch’s Timeline: Wisconsin’s eviction crisis.

istockphoto / smartboy10

As social platforms and private messaging platforms have become central parts of everyday life in the United States, falsehoods have flourished and our democracy has been weakened by an inability to agree on basic facts.

Stick up for truth: How to fact-check friends and family on social media

Wisconsin Watch — September 25, 2020

Information comes so fast on social media that it’s hard to know what to believe. Even professionals get confused. Lewis Friedland, a journalism professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has the expertise, but can’t keep up with the overwhelming torrent of articles, memes and cat pics — let alone verify if it’s all based in reality.

For more tips on how to fact-check friends and family, see this toolkit by Wisconsin Watch and the Center for Journalism Ethics.

Powder keg: Right-wing activists, armed with guns, increase protest tensions as Election Day approaches

Cap Times — September 30, 2020

Across the nation and in Wisconsin, the militia movement is flourishing, fueled by outrage over stay-at-home orders, mask mandates and public unrest. In increasing numbers, armed militia members and vigilantes have inserted themselves into highly charged confrontations between protesters and police, with sometimes violent consequences.

Last month, Wisconsin Watch highlighted this same phenomenon, including an allegation that police sought to work with armed civilians the night two protesters were shot to death and one injured during a protest in Kenosha. And NBC News has uncovered a memo in which federal authorities were told to refer to the shooter, Kyle Rittenhouse, in positive terms.

Revealed: Trump campaign strategy to deter millions of Black Americans from voting in 2016

Channel 4 News — September 28, 2020

Channel 4 News has exclusively obtained a vast cache of data used by Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign on almost 200 million American voters. It reveals that 3.5 million Black Americans were categorized by Donald Trump’s campaign as ‘deterrence’ – voters they wanted to stay home on Election Day. Watch the Channel 4 News investigation, which focuses on the effort to suppress the vote among Black residents of Milwaukee.

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