Solving Homelessness in the US: A Discussion of Causes and Solutions

by | Jul 18, 2023 | Drop-in Center

I just listened to this podcast which laid out some very complex problems around homelessness in the US in ways that are clear and easy to follow.  Highly recommended for those who wish to understand the most effective ways to solve homelessness, addressing questions like:

  • What should be done about encampments?
  • Are mental health and substance use really “root causes” of widespread homelessness, or is this really a housing problem?
  • What do researchers means when they say “housing problem”?
  • Where are the most effective policies in solving homelessness, and where is the partisan divide?  (Spoiler: It’s not where you might think!)
  • Why does California have 30 percent of the unsheltered population in the US while only 12 percent of the total US population, and is this a preview of things-to-come in other states?

Shout out to Margaret Middleton for the recommendation!

From the show’s description: 

California has around half of the nation’s unsheltered homeless population. The state’s homelessness crisis has become a talking point for Republicans and a warning sign for Democrats in blue cities and states across the country.


Last month, the Benioff Homelessness and Housing Initiative at the University of California, San Francisco, released a landmark report about homelessness in the state, drawing from nearly 3,200 questionnaires and 365 in-depth interviews. It is the single deepest study on homelessness in America in decades. And the report is packed with findings that shed new light not only on California’s homelessness problem but also on housing affordability nationwide.


Jerusalem Demsas is a staff writer at The Atlantic who has written extensively about the interlocking problems of housing affordability and homelessness in America. So I asked her on the show to walk me through the core findings of the study, what we know about the causes of homelessness, and what solutions exist to address it. We discuss the surprising process by which people end up homeless in the first place, the “scarring” effect that homelessness can have on their future prospects, the importance of thinking of homelessness as a “flow,” not a “stock,” the benefits and limitations of “housing first” approaches to end homelessness, why Republican proposals for being tougher on the homeless can make the problem worse, why neither generous social safety nets nor private equity firms are to blame for homelessness, and more.


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