Author: WendyRhodes

Wendy Rhodes is a catalyst for change and strategic innovation. She is an experienced business leader and fundraiser with a successful track record securing new six- and seven-figure gifts, managing people and systems, and building organizational capacity. Wendy is currently the Director of Development and Communications at Legal Services of Central New York and built her career in leadership positions with iconic performing arts and entertainment institutions including the Apollo Theater, the New York Philharmonic, and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Wendy holds an MBA from NYU Stern School of Business Specializing in Marketing and Strategy and is also an accomplished opera singer. Wendy currently serves on the Board of Directors for Syracuse Opera as well as on the Board of Education for the Jamesville-DeWitt Central School District.

Author of “The Color of Law” Visits Syracuse for Community Conversation

FREE Community Conversation with Author of “The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How our Government Segregated America”

The legacy of intentional, government mandated housing segregation has led to Syracuse having some of the highest rates of extreme concentrated poverty for African Americans and Hispanics in the nation. Let’s learn from our history and imagine how we can create opportunity and equity moving forward. Richard Rothstein,* an expert on this topic, will visit Syracuse on Tuesday September 17 as part of an initiative led by Legal Services of Central New York and CNY Fair Housing to discuss housing segregation in our community.

The event is free and open to the public and will feature Mr. Rothstein discussing his New York Times Bestselling book, “The Color of Law” which highlights the intentional and systematic web of laws and policy that codified housing segregation in America, including in Syracuse.  In addition to being discriminatory, this severely curtailed financial, career, and educational opportunities for African Americans and created an extreme wealth disparity between whites and African Americans that continues to widen today.

Mr. Rothstein will be joined by panelists Vincent Love (Blueprint 15), Lanessa Chaplin (NYCLU), and Sally Santangelo (CNY Fair Housing). The conversation will also include a welcome by Mayor Ben Walsh and opportunities for audience Q & A.

In preparation for this exciting free community event, this summer the Syracuse Citywide Book Club brought people throughout our region together to read and discuss Mr. Rothstein’s book: “The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How our Government Segregated America”.  More than 100 people are currently registered for the Syracuse Citywide Book Club, with hundreds more following on Facebook and reading the book on their own.  Individuals can sign-up at to receive exclusive content and updates.  Everyone is invited to read along with Mayor Ben Walsh and other community leaders at

The 2019 Syracuse Summer Book Club and the free Community Conversation with Richard Rothstein are sponsored by Legal Services of Central New York, CNY Fair Housing, NBT Bank, and Syracuse University College of Law.  To register for updates and exclusive content visit or for more information contact

*Richard Rothstein is a Distinguished Fellow of the Economic Policy Institute, Emeritus Senior Fellow of the Thurgood Marshall Institute at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Senior Fellow at the Haas Institute at the University of California, Berkley, and author of New York Times Bestseller “The Color of Law.”




More Than 800 People Gather Together to Fight Housing Instability in Syracuse

Written by Wendy Rhodes

Wendy Rhodes, Director of Development & Communications of Legal Services of Central New York, tells us how the organization organized the community around an often unknown epidemic in poverty-stricken neighborhoods – unstable housing.

Eviction is a major challenge in our region. Over half of Syracuse residents rent their homes, and 58% of them have a housing cost burden. This means they spend more than 30% of their income on housing, leaving less money for food and healthcare and often putting them in the difficult position of having to choose which bills to pay each month. Upwards of 11,000 Syracuse residents face eviction each year, and throughout Central New York these numbers climb higher. Eviction is a significant contributor to housing instability and a challenge that we need to take on as a community.

To address this issue head-on, we at Legal Services of Central New York assembled a coalition of partners around our 2018 Evicted initiative.  From July through October, we challenged communities throughout Central New York to read and discuss the eye opening and oftentimes heartbreaking book Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Princeton University sociologist Matthew Desmond.  The New York Times declared it “…an exhaustively researched, vividly realized and, above all, unignorable book — after Evicted, it will no longer be possible to have a serious discussion about poverty without having a serious discussion about housing”. The book was recognized with a Pulitzer Prize and as one of the 10 Best Books of 2016 by the New York Times Book Review.

Evicted tells the real-life stories of eight families in Milwaukee caught in the relentless cycle of housing instability. Nearly all of their money goes towards rent yet they are still living on the brink of homelessness, constantly grappling with eviction, unsafe housing conditions, and dangerous neighborhoods. The book also highlights two landlords whose properties and business practices have a substantive impact on the futures of these vulnerable families.  As Dr. Desmond notes, “without a home everything else falls apart”.

Evicted heartbreakingly demonstrates the impossible decisions and challenges people living in poverty face every day.  How do you choose whether to pay for rent or heat if you only have enough money to pay for one?  How can you build a pathway out of poverty when 80%, 90%, or even 100% of your income goes to rent (and your home may be unsafe, unsanitary, dangerous or illegal)?  How is it possible that domestic violence victims are often evicted for reporting their abuser? How can children succeed in school when they are constantly moving, forcing rapid changes in schools throughout the school year and absences while their parents are looking for a new home and moving in crisis situations?  How do children stay healthy when they are living in unsanitary conditions? How does all of this impact individual physical and mental health, and erode social and economic capital in neighborhoods?

City-Wide Book Club in partnership with the City of Syracuse

To present these questions and more, we co-hosted a Summer Book Club in partnership with the City of Syracuse and Mayor Ben Walsh.  The free book club engaged people in neighborhoods across Syracuse and communities throughout our region with important conversations around housing stability.

More than 300 people registered for the book club and received weekly wrap-up emails with discussion questions and thoughts from local leaders which were compiled into a free Readers Guide which is still available at

Participants encouraged their existing book clubs to read and discuss the book together, formed new clubs for the express purpose of reading and discussing the book, or read the book on their own and discussed it in our virtual book club on Facebook.  More than 100 copies of Evicted were donated to the Onondaga County Public Library, and its eight city branches also hosted a series of book club discussions with special guest Sally Santangelo, executive director of CNY Fair Housing.

Book club participants, including local leaders who contributed to the Readers Guide were often surprised by the scope and challenges of housing instability in Syracuse and how directly the real-life stories in Evicted paralleled the experiences of Syracuse residents.  Reading Evicted was also eye-opening for many participants, especially those who live in the suburbs.  We constantly received feedback from suburban residents that they were not aware of the prevalence of poor housing conditions, instability, and eviction.  One book club in DeWitt/Fayetteville even said they were considering purchasing a home, renovating it, renting to people living in poverty, and being landlords who are catalysts for change by working to break the cycle of poverty by providing safe, stable housing!

Free Community Event with Author Dr. Matthew Desmond

We also hosted a free community event on October 23 at Henninger High School as a culmination of the Summer Book Club.  City of Syracuse Mayor, Ben Walsh, provided a welcome for the evening, and more than 800 people attended to meet and learn from author and MacArthur Genius Award recipient Dr. Matthew Desmond. Desmond highlighted the immense struggles of living in poverty. He expanded upon the personal stories highlighted in his book and illustrated the negative impact eviction has on individuals, communities, and society with compelling statistics and data.  Dr. Desmond discussed another challenge faced by parents, especially black women, is that landlords typically view children as a liability and often refuse to rent to tenants with children. He showed that poverty leaves people constantly on the brink of crisis and seemingly small challenges such as a higher-than-expected heating bill can create an eviction situation. He also explained how eviction has a long tail, creating financial judgements and credit damage that follow people for years and contribute to an ongoing cycle of poverty.

We received overwhelmingly positive feedback regarding the Evicted initiative.  One Southside resident, Ms. H, was the first attendee to arrive.  She came by bus more than an hour early to make sure she got a seat. She knew the importance of this conversation and felt validated that people were acknowledging and talking about the struggles faced by people in her neighborhood every day.  Another participant, Ms. A, who lives in Baldwinsville, shared that she had no idea what a devastating impact housing instability and eviction had on people’s lives or that it was a pressing issue in our region.  Eviction was not something she saw in her circle of friends.  Now that she is more aware, she plans to start volunteering with several local organizations working to address homelessness and poverty.