From Ideas to Action: Insights from SBS Symposium on Tackling the Housing Crisis

April 19, 2024
Three panelists sit at a desk together during the SBS Symposium

Delving into one of society’s most difficult challenges, the 2024 Social and Behavioral Sciences Symposium Series convened a discussion to generate new ideas on tackling the housing crisis. From seasoned researchers to frontline advocates, this year’s symposium illuminated pathways to understanding, empathy, and actionable change.

“The goal of this year’s SBS symposium was to bring the community together and remember that there are different ways of finding solutions to the most pressing problems in our field,” said Professor Diya Mazumder, chair of the symposium organizing committee.

The symposium featured three experts and practitioners who are actively working to solve the housing crisis.

  • Monica Davalos, a senior policy analyst at the California Budget & Policy Center, shared perspectives rooted in her research on the intersection of homelessness, housing, and health.
  • Jennifer Friend, J.D., who serves as the chief executive officer of Project Hope Alliance, spoke about leading efforts to end youth homelessness in Orange County through trauma-informed care, drawing from her personal experience as a homeless child.
  • David A. Snow, a recently retired distinguished professor of sociology at UC Irvine, shared insights from his career studying homelessness, social movements, and identity.

Here are three key takeaways from this year’s multidisciplinary forum:

  • Symposium participants were invited to reexamine who we are actually thinking and talking about when we refer to the unhoused. This exploration allowed for a critical discussion about the misconceptions of the unhoused and a recognition of the gap between our perceptions and reality. It is important to think carefully and critically about the definitions we use to describe and document the unhoused if we are to adequately address the problem, as many misperceptions exist about who we think the unhoused are and what they look like.
  • It is crucial to consider the structural issues underlying this issue without losing sight of the broader policy perspective.
  • As we envision a path forward that integrates grassroots action with systemic changes and policy initiatives, participants were invited to think more deeply about the kinds of places we should build for many diverse communities of the unhoused in California and across the country. It is crucial to provide forums for holistic and humanistic approaches to solving problems such as integrating grassroots level action with state-level policy initiatives.