Camila’s story feels like a warning: If in prosperous times this is the best our government can do to assist those struggling to get by, then in these coming difficult times we will be able to do very little ... a remarkable feat of reporting. Sandler seems to be always at her side ... Sandler’s such a keen observer, her writing so cleareyed ... a testament to the bigness of the small story, to the power of intimate narratives to speak to something much larger. Sandler wisely lets Camila’s story stand on its own without lecturing us. Not to sound clichéd, but we walk in Camila’s shoes. We come to understand what Sandler recognized early on: If Camila can’t navigate the dearth of housing, how can others?
... [an] engaging and moving new book ... Sandler deftly includes context, history and clearheaded explanations of the public welfare system and its dysfunctions in her detailed account of Camila’s life ... The 'system,' ostensibly there to help Camila, who became a ward of the state at age 15, almost becomes a character in the book ... Ultimately, the story of her first year of motherhood is heartbreaking, inspiring and infuriating, all at once.
Camila’s story is both uniquely her own and illustrative of the grindingly dictatorial public assistance programs that are determined not to assist ... As in [Edith] Wharton, there is no pity for the weak. Sandler is skilled in weaving together these scenes with the background to elucidate them ... Camila’s experience must ring true for thousands, yet as a very young homeless mother, she is atypical ... While minutely reporting Camila’s experience, she fails to provide a national portrait of homelessness, skimping on the complexity of the data ... Sandler emphasizes that Camila is exceptional ... she seems perpetually poised for a breakthrough, and her failure to achieve it feels all the more poignant and frustrating. Camila is living proof that a segment of the homeless population would be well served by adequate, affordable housing ... But...Sandler provides little discussion of the efficacy of current [affordable housing] initiatives ... she approaches the issue almost exclusively as Camila’s story, in ways that feel emotionally over-torqued and factually underreported ... That’s where This Is All I Got ultimately founders, failing to go beyond the narrative ... No one imagines that a journalist will solve a subject’s problems or society’s ills, but it’s not unreasonable to expect more than just going along for the ride.
Journalist Sandler, in fluid prose, sheds insight into the lives of those living below the poverty line by profiling one year in the life of Camila ... While Sandler focuses primarily on New York City, her study will resonate widely and is worthwhile reading for all, especially fans of Matthew Desmond's Evicted.
Sandler is frank from the start that it became difficult to maintain journalistic distance from a woman who became her friend. But even with this tangle, their collaboration leads to a rich, sociologically valuable work that’s more gripping, and more devastating, than fiction. Readers will be struck by both the sheer impossibility of what Camila faces while navigating inadequate social services—hairpin switchbacks of requirements, paperwork, and appointments that would send most people careening into an abyss—and her ability to maintain hope as she does so. Sandler frequently juxtaposes Camila’s struggles with tableaux of New York’s encroaching wealth, with stunning statistics, giving readers an unusually personal view of an inarguably failing system.
Journalist Sandler...delivers a vivid, heartbreaking account of a homeless woman’s efforts to secure housing and a future for herself and her infant son in New York City ... Sandler scrupulously documents Camila’s efforts to navigate underresourced, byzantine, and dehumanizing public assistance programs, and examines her own conflicted feelings about bearing witness to a less-privileged woman’s pain ... Readers will be moved by this harrowing and impassioned call for change.
A closely observed chronicle ... Sandler displays her journalistic talent by unerringly presenting this dire situation ... An impressive blend of dispassionate reporting, pungent condemnation of public welfare, and gritty humanity.