Arleen is a black tenant and the mother of Ger-Ger, Boosie, Jori, and Jafaris. She experiences housing instability throughout the book, is evicted multiple times (including by Sherenna), and sometimes… read analysis of Arleen Bell
Sherenna is a black landlord. She is married to Quentin, with whom she runs her business. Sherenna specializes in renting to people in the North Side, taking advantage of the fact that many… read analysis of Sherenna Tarver
Lamar is one of Sherenna’s tenants. He is a Vietnam war veteran and an amputee with no legs. He is also a single father to Luke and Eddy. Sherenna repeatedly threatens him with… read analysis of Lamar
Tobin Charney is the owner of the College Mobile Home Park. He is 71 and has a reputation for being firm but understanding. He tries to avoid evicting tenants yet is also ruthless about collecting… read analysis of Tobin Charney
Pam is a white woman who lives in Tobin’s trailer park. She is the mother of Bliss, Sandra, Kristen, and an unnamed baby girl, and the stepmother of Laura. She… read analysis of Pam
Scott is a white, gay former nurse in his 30s who lives in Tobin’s trailer park with Teddy. He is a drug user who lost his nursing license for stealing medication and getting… read analysis of Scott
Crystal Mayberry is a young black woman who moves into Arleen’s apartment after Arleen is evicted. Crystal suggests that Arleen and the boys stay in the apartment, and the two women live together until… read analysis of Crystal Mayberry
Doreen is a black mother and grandmother who lives in one of Sherenna’s units with her children and grandchildren. Having clashed at length with Sherenna over fixing the apartment’s many broken features, Doreen eventually… read analysis of Doreen Hinkston
Patrice is a 24-year-old mother of three and the daughter of Doreen. At the beginning of the book she and her kids live in the unit above Lamar, although after she is evicted… read analysis of Patrice Hinkston
Ger-Ger, whose given name is Gerald, is Arleen’s oldest son. He doesn’t appear directly in the book.
Boosie, given name Larry, is Arleen’s son. He chose to stop living with his mother at 15, and soon after dropped out of high school and started selling crack. He lives with Arleen’s cousin J.P.
Jori is Arleen’s 13-year-old son, who lives with her.
Jafaris is Arleen’s 5-year-old son, who also lives with her. He suffers from asthma.
Quentin is Sherenna’s husband and business partner.
Luke is Lamar’s son.
Eddy is Lamar’s son.
Buck is a friend of Luke and Eddy’s who “lives” at Lamar’s place, though he sleeps in his parents’ house.
DeMarcus is another friend of Luke and Eddy.
Lora is a friend of Sherenna’s and is also a black landlord. She is an immigrant from Jamaica.
Ken works in the self-storage industry and gives a speech at the Milwaukee Real Estate Investors Network Group meeting.
Lenny manages the College Mobile Home Park for Tobin. He is marred to Office Susie. He loses his job when the trailer park is taken over by Bieck Management.
Office Susie, whose real name is Susie Dunn, helps to manage the trailer park for Tobin. She is married to Lenny, and also loses her job when the trailer park is taken over by Bieck Management.
Mrs. Mytes is an elderly woman who lives in the trailer park. Most people consider her to be insane.
“Heroin Susie” is a heroin user who lives in the trailer park. She is married to Billy. She is given the nickname to distinguish her from Office Susie.
Billy is Heroin Susie’s husband.
Alderman Witkowski is an alderman who participates in the vote on Tobin’s license renewal.
Ned is Pam’s boyfriend and the father of Laura. He is cruel to Pam and racially abuses her two black daughters, Bliss and Sandra.
Bliss is Pam’s biracial daughter.
Sandra is Pam’s biracial daughter.
Kristen is the daughter of Ned and Pam.
Laura is Ned’s daughter from a previous relationship who lives with him and Pam.
Teddy is a weak, sickly 52-year-old white man who is a heroin user and is Scott’s roommate in the trailer park.
Larry is Arleen’s ex-boyfriend and the father of Boosie and Jori.
Trisha is a young black woman who lives in the same apartment building as Arleen. Her boyfriend Chris abuses her.
Belinda Hall is a black woman who runs a business managing the finances of SSI beneficiaries.
Natasha is Doreen’s second-eldest daughter, the girlfriend of Malik and the mother of Malik, Jr.
Malik is Natasha’s boyfriend and the father of Malik, Jr.
Malik Jr. is Natasha and Malik’s baby son.
Karen Long is the program coordinator of the Landlord Training Program attended by Tobin, Lenny, and Office Susie.
Dave Brittain is the cofounder of a moving company with his brothers Tom and Jim.
Tom Brittain is the cofounder of a moving company with his brothers Dave and Jim.
Jim Brittain is the cofounder of a moving company with his brothers Tom and Dave.
Glen is Larraine’s deceased husband. He was an alcoholic and he and Larraine had an intense, tempestuous relationship. He died of an overdose in prison.
Ruben is Larraine’s wealthier brother. He reluctantly agrees to pay Larraine’s rent while she is facing eviction, although Tobin refuses the payment.
Jayme is Larraine’s younger daughter. She works at Arby’s and tries to help support her mother financially.
Megan is Larraine’s eldest daughter. She no longer speaks to her mother.
Pastor Daryl is Larraine’s pastor.
Beaker is Larraine’s brother. Larraine moves into his trailer while he is in the hospital after she is evicted from her own.
Mikey is Patrice’s son.
Colin is a young white man from the church who comes to visit Lamar and his sons.
Chris is Trisha’s violently abusive boyfriend.
Uncle Verne is Quentin’s alcoholic uncle. Quentin pays him small amounts of cash to perform handiwork for him.
Ladona is a single mother and housing voucher recipient who is one of Sherenna’s tenants.
Aunt Merva is Arleen’s only financially stable relative. Arleen borrows money from her after her electricity is shut off and her sons are taken away.
Roger is an inspector from the Department of Neighborhood Services.
Kamala is a young mother of three who moves into the unit above Lamar. Her apartment catches alight after one of her daughters knocks over a lamp, and her youngest child, an eight-month old baby, dies in the fire.
Devon is Kamala’s boyfriend.
Carol is a judgmental white landlord who interviews Arleen for an apartment.
Ms. Betty is an elderly white woman who takes in Larraine after Larraine has to leave Beaker’s trailer.
Vanetta is a 20-year-old mother of three who befriends Crystal while they are both staying at the Lodge. Vanetta is sent to prison for robbery, leaving her children in the care of her sister Ebony.
Minister Barber is Crystal’s minister.
Ebony is Vanetta’s sister. After Vanetta is sent to prison, Ebony becomes the guardian of her three children.
D’Sean is Vanetta’s ex-boyfriend and the father of one of her children.
Patricia is a woman whom Crystal befriends, and then falls out with.
Kendal is Vanetta’s eldest son.
David is a friend of Scott’s from Alcoholics Anonymous. Scott lives with him and his wife, Anna, before they kick him out for relapsing.
Anna is David’s wife.
Pana is a landlord who briefly lets Arleen an apartment before kicking her out after the police follow Jori home from school.
T., whose given name is Terrance, is a relative of Arleen’s who is shot and killed by Arleen’s cousin.
A boyfriend of Trisha's, who moves into her apartment directly from jail while Arleen is also living there. His relatives move in soon after. Eventually, Sunny and Trisha and the relatives all disappear, and it eventually becomes clear that they've stopped paying rent and Arlreen must move out.
Arleen's cousin, with whom her older son Boosie lives.