Vestal on L.A.’s Long History of Homelessness

Marques Vestal, incoming assistant professor of urban planning, co-authored a Los Angeles Times opinion piece about lessons the region can learn from its long history of grappling with homelessness. One key to finding a durable solution to the housing crisis is recognizing the power of self-determination among the unhoused, wrote Vestal and Andrew Klein, members of a research team that produced a report on the history of homelessness in Los Angeles for the UCLA Luskin Center for History and Policy. “Homeless people are actors and make decisions on their own behalf that city policy cannot fully control,” the authors wrote, encouraging support for this self-determination instead of focusing on top-down strategies. They called on leaders to advance grass-roots homebuilding initiatives and ensure access to water, bathrooms, trash collection and other services in existing encampments. “Without dignified and healthful alternatives, encampments will continue to serve as homes for thousands of marginalized people, as they have now for over a century.”

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