Chapter 5: Housing Finally

If homelessness is the problem, housing is the solution. But it’s not always that simple. Kate Cody has been living in her encampment community for a long time. And there’s no guarantee she’ll be able to make the transition inside, even with the golden ticket.

“I didn’t think anyone would live in a tent by an interstate if they had another option. But it’s more complicated than that.”

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?

If you’ve enjoyed this series and were moved by the stories you heard, we’ve compiled a list of Bay Area organizations that you can support.



According to Need was produced by Katie Mingle, with associate producer Abby Madan and managing editor Whitney Henry-Lester. Further invaluable editing from, Roman Mars, Lisa Pollak, Emmett FitzGerald, Delaney Hall, Christopher Johnson and Joe Rosenberg. Sound Engineering by Bryson Barnes. 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 everyone who was interviewed for this series as well as Andrea Hensen, Andy Wellspring, and Talya Husbands Henkin.

According to Need is a project of 99% Invisible which is distributed by PRX.

  1. Jason Tor

    Is it possible to provide a link to KC’s (Kate Cody) Etsy page so that I can support her through purchasing her jewelry? I searched as best I could but couldn’t find it.

    Katie Mingle – this was an amazing series, it has stimulated a lot of discussion in my home and I am so grateful. Thank you!

  2. Oli

    Katie interviews KC and mentions that she has an Etsy store where she sells beaded bracelets. If KC would be comfortable, could you share the link so we can buy something?

  3. Just Chuck

    Congratulations, Katie and crew, for this fabulous series on homelessness. Whenever media professionals may ‘gather’ in the near future to celebrate quality podcast work, I believe this show should be nominated. You kept it real, kept it individual and personal, while also acknowledging the vast scope of the problem. You were careful not to cast blame; you showed the unintended consequences of policy, and never fell back on name-calling when describing the vast, soulless, yet absolutely necessary bureaucracy that is the System you described.

    Wherever you live, no matter what the System looks like, it works on people’s care and respect for fellow humans. By showing us that the System is full of people like us, you’ve reminded the planet that care and respect is due to everyone. I am so proud of you all! This is some of the best work 99PI has ever done.

  4. I just listen to the According to Need episodes, and recently watch Frontline’s documentary on homelessness as well. These are powerful series but I also think you need the view of the Landlord as well, especially in the current climate of Covid 19 and no evictions. I run a rooming house where mostly low income people live. This population can be very difficult to deal with. I have pulled myself up to be a landlord but could be pulled back down any month with another problem arising.
    Like more people not paying, more repairs, with more people at home the utilities have doubled are just a few examples. There are 2 sides to the story. I would also like to see more on the solutions that are working. I would be very interested in being a part of those.

  5. Nellie Rajabi

    Thanks for taking time in sharing this series. A list was mentioned of organizations that people can donate to — I’m having trouble finding anything. Can you share it please?

  6. Isambard

    In my opinion, after listening to shows like this and talking to my own friends who have known many homeless people, is that people who live in places like encampments lack purpose. That is the effective root cause of their problems. They struggle to “get by”, but the essence of that struggle doesn’t expend much time or energy, and thus lethargy is prevalent, and thus a major cause of many physical and psychological conditions. A human body and mind will decay in any number of ways if left with nothing to do. So what’s to done about it? Most of these people end up ignored, and those “lucky few”, selected for their particularly sad stories, are given some anecdotal spotlight and offered this “way out” which ends up costing $30k/yr, and apparently the time of several other people who have to be either hired or who volunteer, and into which they have to also be slowly coaxed into accepting. It seems wrong somehow, it seems remarkably… inefficient? It seems, oddly enough, like the product of a state government who doesn’t really care to effectively combat this problem. Vouchers is what you’ve got… that are then spent on a for-profit, private apartment building? This seems like a “throw money at the problem to make it go away” answer. If I were a tax-paying resident of California, and someone with infinite compassion, I might prefer that the most possible good were done with the resources “the people” elected to assign to be spent on helping their fellows… and it might make me just a little cynical to see how things actually work.

    Here’s a suggestion – create a program that offers homeless people the option to build their own housing. The cost would be in materials and organization. The main cost, labor, is gone, and so is land as all such buildings could be built on state land which California has plenty of. Those who wished not to be homeless would no longer need to be, and also gain purpose (which, and this is true, then translates to a healthy mind and body). Those who preferred the encampment anyway could stay there without further… let’s call it guilt… on the part of the population. I suppose there would be some who wished not to be homeless but weren’t capable of helping, but I’m sure they could be taken care of by the output-heavy end of this operation. It doesn’t take someone’s whole life to build a house, after all. But wait, I hear you ask, wouldn’t this be some kind of work camp? Not if it’s voluntary, and not if the people get to own a share of the building when they live in it. I’m not keen on the socialist aspect, but then it’s less socialist than straight up welfare.

  7. Sarah

    Wow! This series is incredible. I hope that every person in the US listens to it, though I know they won’t. The many perspectives, the different stories, thank you for giving these people a voice. This series could help change the story that we tell about them. This was beautiful and moving. Excellent work!

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