Chapter 4: The List

When Tulicia Lee tried to get help with housing, she was essentially put on a big long list with a bunch of other homeless people. If you live in the U.S., your community probably has a list like this too. Where one ends up on the list can have huge implications, but how one rises to the top of it is a bit of a mystery. In this episode, Katie finally gets to see how it works.

“I don’t think it’s hyperbolic to say that people may actually live or die according to where they end up on this list.”

The way homelessness has exploded in California over the last decade, you’d think there was no system in place to address it. But there is one – it just wasn’t designed to help everyone. According to Need is a documentary podcast in 5 chapters from 99% Invisible that asks: what are we doing to get people into housing?



This chapter of According to Need was produced by Katie Mingle, with associate producer Abby Madan and managing editor Whitney Henry-Lester. Huge thanks to Ann Oliva, Jamie Almanza, Dennis Culhane, Alison DeJung, Regina Cannon, Jessie Shimmin, Osha Neumann and Iain De Jong who all spent time talking to Katie about the list.

Roman Mars is the Executive Producer of According to Need. Invaluable editing from Lisa Pollak, Emmett FitzGerald, Delaney Hall, Christopher Johnson, Joe Rosenberg and Roman Mars. Bryson Barnes was our sound engineer. Fact checking by Amy Gaines. Beautiful music by the beautiful Sean Real. Branding and Design by Kurt Kohlstedt was our digital director. Additional support from Sofia Klatzker, Vivian Le and Chris Berube. Special thanks to Marisol Medina-Cadena, Johanna Zorn and Chelsea Miller

According to Need is a project of 99% Invisible, which is a founding, proud member of Radiotopia from PRX, a network of independent, listener-supported, artist-owned podcasts.

  1. Joanna Gower

    I work in Social Services in Vancouver BC. I started over a year ago and I have worked across my community in drop centres, homeless outreach, advocacy and finally started working in supported housing six months ago. I’ve worked with folks from absolute homeless to living in supported housing as a result. Not many, maybe 2 or 3. Vancouver has the highest rent in Canada and the highest rate of homeless as a result. Despite having probably the most robust network of social service providers in Canada the issues that we face at my organization and across the city and the province of British Columbia are the same, the system is the same.

    Thank you for your reporting, these podcasts are something that I look forward to sharing with people in my life that will help them understand.

  2. Paulo

    Its not accurate to say that homelessness is a purely economic problem as if to imply that if our society migrated to a socialist economic system that the problem would be solved. It is widely observed that homelessness became a problem when the psychiatric hospitals began to be closed in the 1970’s under the assumption that patients would manage their own psychotic episodes if provided with medications. We have since found that such patients need ongoing treatment and support to stay well, and that support has been woefully lacking. We need to differentiate between the people who are homeless because of economic issues and those who are homeless because of mental health or addiction. It has been widely observed that homelessness because of economic issues is usually temporary. The problem will not be solved without a nuanced approach.

  3. I really appreciated the amount of research that went into this reporting and how good a job the reporter did speaking about the issue. I’ve worked in homeless services for over 5 years now and I am still learning how to understand and work within it all. I agree that this is a systemic problem where we are not providing enough resources to tackle the challenges that we are expected to conquer. Unfortunately, without enough resources, the homeless system not only fails to end homelessness across the country, but it also does so at the expense of those trying to address the problem every day.

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