Scott is a former nurse whose main job now is taking care of Teddy. Already small and weak at 52, Teddy seems much older than he is. Even after Pam and Ned leave for a motel, Scott and Teddy still face eviction for unpaid rent, after falling behind thanks to Teddy’s medical expenses. After being served their eviction notice, the two men discuss Tobin. Scott suggests there’s nothing wrong with Tobin, but Teddy contends that he’s “purely an asshole.” Scott muses that the eviction is the trigger he needed to leave the trailer park.
It is striking that even after being issued an eviction notice by Tobin over letting Ned and Pam stay, Scott maintains that there is nothing wrong with Tobin. This again proves how low the bar is for landlords, and perhaps speaks to Scott’s fear that whoever his next landlord is after Tobin will be far worse.
Scott was raised on a dairy farm in Iowa; he was the product of rape. His mother was forced to marry her rapist at the age of 16, but Scott’s father disappeared soon after. Scott graduated from Milwaukee Area Technical College and at 31 earned his nursing license. He had known he was gay since he was young. He was a skilled nurse, and during his most prosperous year earned $88,000. However, one year Scott was prescribed Percocet for a slipped disk, and at the same time two of his best friends died of AIDS. He began buying pills and stealing them from work, and soon he tried fentanyl for the first time and instantly “fell in love.”
Scott’s life is one of mixed circumstances. In some ways he grew up more fortunate than many of the other characters in the book. Not only is he a white man, but he is also college educated and a trained professional who made a substantial living. At the same time, the traumatic circumstances of his birth along with growing up gay in the midst of the AIDS crisis created pain that seems to have profoundly colored the rest of his life.
Before long, Scott was struggling to cope with fentanyl withdrawal, which he called “the sick.” After his coworkers started noticing strange behavior, Scott was busted for stealing drugs and using at work. He joined Narcotics Anonymous, but shortly after his nursing license was indefinitely suspended and he felt like he had nothing else to live for. He decided to become “a full-blown junkie.” He sold his possessions and checked into a homeless shelter, where he met Teddy. Scott was drawn to Teddy because he need to someone to take care of him. They became friends and eventually roommates.
Scott both embodies and deviates from the stereotype of a drug addict. On one hand, he fulfils the negative expectation that drug users are irresponsible and that they will create chaos in order to be able to use. On the other hand, he proves that addicts are not one-dimensional; they have skills, interests, and interiority beyond their addiction. This is especially shown through Scott’s care for Teddy.
Getting drugs used to be difficult for Scott, but after moving into the trailer park it became easy. One day, after seeing Scott suffering withdrawal, Heroin Susie and her boyfriend Bill invited him into their tidy apartment and offered him black-tar heroin. The three became friends, hustling together to raise money for drugs. When new residents apply to move into the trailer park, Lenny searches their name inside Consolidated Court Automation Programs (CCAP) to check for any convictions, misdemeanors, or even legal matters, such as divorce. Lenny claims to turn away anyone with a drug or domestic violence offense, but Susie and Billy, like many other residents of the trailer park, both have drug charges on their record.
The main point of this passage is that Lenny’s claims to vet prospective tenants are false. Yet a related question (which the book neglects to explore directly) is whether drug users should be discriminated against in housing, and indeed whether drug users should be considered a class like African Americans or mothers with children and protected from discrimination. Considering that the book emphasizes that every human being needs a home, surely discrimination against drug users is thus unacceptable.
Lenny, Office Susie, and Tobin all attend the Landlord Training Program together. The program coordinator, Karen Long, emphasizes the importance of aggressively screening potential tenants. There are businesses that offer to perform the screening process for a fee. She insists that landlords should not rent to people who have a recent court-ordered eviction. The varying rigor with which landlords screen tenants explains how people involved in criminal activity come to live in the same building, street, or subsection of a neighborhood. Some landlords fail to screen on purpose, knowing that money can be made from untrustworthy and even criminal tenants.
There is a clear parallel between landlords’ willingness to take on risky tenants and the fact that crumbling, decrepit buildings can be the most profitable. These twin facts point to something seriously wrong with the housing system, which not only fails to provide an incentive for landlords to offer decent housing but actually incentivizes the ownership of substandard property and irresponsible rental practices.
During the question and answer period, a woman asks if she is allowed to enter any of the common areas in her own building without notice. Karen replies that you can, and urges the landlords to remember that this is their property. She makes them all repeat the phrase: “This is my property,” which they do with increasing vigor.
The image of landlords all enthusiastically chanting “this is my property” is one of the most disturbing moments in the book. It highlights how easily landlords can come to revel in their own power.
After being evicted, Teddy decides to go back home to Tennessee. Through an old friend, Scott finds temporary work cleaning foreclosed homes for drastically varied amounts of money, paid in cash. He observes that it often seems that these families leave their homes with nothing more than the clothes they are wearing. Teddy admits that he is sad to say goodbye to Scott. After Teddy is gone and while Scott is at work, people steal items from their trailer. Scott is relieved to find that at least no one took his box of mementos. That night, he clears out a house that contains a stripper pole, hardcore pornography, and a children’s bedroom strewn with toys and unfinished homework. He weeps.
This passage examines the psychological consequences of eviction. Through being evicted, Scott loses not just his roommate and friend, but also a sense of purpose—looking after Teddy brought meaning to Scott’s life following the loss of his nursing license. Scott is also traumatized by taking part in the process of eviction even when he is not directly affected. His job as a mover brings him face to face with the poverty and deprivation that eviction both causes and is caused by.