We are now in the midst of the applicative portion of our project. We have three interviews lined up for this weekend after a cancellation from the fourth person, and we are really excited to continue with the process! Saturday will be a booked day with interviews from 11:30am-4:30pm. This is the portion of the project we have all been most looking forward to, and so far the interviewees’ willingness to participate has made the scheduling and interviewing process very enriching. We look forward to getting to know more from the interviewees this weekend. Unfortunately, we will be unable to attend the transportation summit due to our busy day in the city. Conducting these interviews means that we have had to accommodate the interviewees’ schedules more than our own, and in this case, foregoing the field trip means more time to focus on conducting thorough interviews and building trustful, respectful relationships with interviewees. We are meeting two interviewees in the Mission. We are going to do one interview in a man’s home, another interview in a person’s offices, and a third interview with a woman that lives in Oakland at the San Francisco Public Library. We are looking forward to the new perspectives we will gain on this issue, as each of the people we will see tomorrow come from starkly different backgrounds and will provide unique stories from their different experiences.
After reading an article Deland sent us this week about evictions in regions of the country other than the Bay Area, it became clear to us that this is an issue that extends far beyond the particular anxieties surrounding the tech industry. Harvard sociologist Matthew Desmond attributes the soaring rate of evictions country-wide to the lack of affordable housing, pointing out that while “during the last 16 years, median rent nationwide has increased more than 70 percent,” and incomes, minimum wage and welfare payments have remained stagnant. Though the Bay Area is faced with a particular circumstance of large influx of high-income individuals, the housing crisis is very much a national one.
In addition to regional transcendence, through our correspondences with evictees we have learned that eviction touches people from many walks of life. Of course the poor are disproportionately affected, but we have also corresponded with several people within the tech industry who earn six figures and were still forced out of their homes. Matthew Desmond raises the point that eviction is a cause, not just a condition, of poverty,” going on to discuss the consequences often experienced by evicted people, including mental health issues, job loss, and residential instability. For people who already face extreme disadvantages based on race and income, eviction compounds existing hardships, and for socially privileged evictees, eviction sets in motion a multitude of issues.
The fact that eviction does not only impact poor people is a nuance of the situation that we will have to think carefully about how to portray. On the one hand, we would like to represent a broad range of eviction experiences, and on the other, if we give a relatively privileged person the space to vocalize their experience, then we are potentially taking that opportunity away from someone who is even more invisible and silenced in society. Additionally, we have had to confront the reality of disproportionate accessibility — the fact that the majority of evictees who responded to the AMP survey are white, and a good majority of which earn above $30,000 a year, shows that this survey is not able to reach the populations most affected by this issue. We are not able to circumvent this reality as we are, for the purposes of this particular class and project, reaching out to respondents to the survey. However, it is certainly something for AMP and others wanting to do this kind of work to think about for the future.
After a very successful first interview, we continued to schedule our next two weekends of interviews. We have learned some important lessons about scheduling in the process. The first is about the difficulty of all three of us being in contact with different potential interviewees. The three of us share a GoogleDoc which we use to communicate to one another whom we have contacted, whether or not we have gotten in touch, and for when/if an interview has been scheduled. Despite this pretty solid communication model, Jordan and I drove to San Francisco on Saturday morning to conduct an interview that Caroline had scheduled, and the interviewee did not show up. We called him and he was under the impression that the exact time had not been confirmed, though Caroline was certain that they had confirmed. This taught us two major lessons: the first is that the person who will actually be conducting the interview should get in direct contact with the interviewee, and the second is to always confirm by phone or email the day before an interview, so as to save unnecessary trips to San Francisco! That Saturday, Jordan and I had also expected to conduct an interview with an additional person who told us that he was available that Saturday, but he never confirmed a time with us and did not receive our phone calls that day, and has since not called us back. People have busy lives and are unpredictable, and we have to remember to be patient with this, as well as do our part to communicate well with interviewees.
In terms of arranging interviews, we have had about a ⅓ success rate among the people to whom we have reached out. It has been an issue of both conflicting schedules and people not returning our calls -- we have yet to hear back from a person who is not interested in participating. Because of this, we are continuing to make calls and in addition to our three interviews scheduled for tomorrow, Saturday the 21st, we hope to schedule about three more interviews for next weekend.
Our expectation of conducting all interviews in peoples’ homes has also been put to the test, as, despite our requests, some interviewees have suggested their workplaces as preferred sites for the interviews. We have been sensitive to these requests, and although we make our preference known, our priority is to respect the wishes of the interviewees, as they are already granting us the privilege of listening to, recording, and disseminating their stories. After having gone through the often traumatic experience of being forced out of their homes, we do not want our presence to feel like another source of invasion. This has also come up when asking interviewees if they feel comfortable with Melanie recording the interviews, as KALW is a fairly prominent radio station and will certainly make their stories public. Deferring to the interview is definitely our rule of thumb.