John T. Dunlop Lecture: Margot Kushel, “The Toxic Problem of Poverty + Housing Costs: Lessons from New Landmark Research About Homelessness”

Photo of individuals gathered under a tent with tables.

Event Description

For over three decades, Dr. Margot Kushel has both cared for people who experience homelessness and studied the causes, consequences, and solutions to homelessness, particularly in California, which is home to 30 percent of the people experiencing homelessness in the US. Kushel, who recently led the largest representative study of homelessness in the United States since the mid-1990s, will discuss insights that have emerged from her work as a physician and researcher. Her research has shown that California’s homelessness crisis is primarily due to the lack of housing that low-income households can afford. Moreover, contrary to popular beliefs, the majority of people experiencing homelessness in the state were born in California. She will draw on the findings to discuss policies, programs, and practices that would help people experiencing homelessness and those who are at risk of becoming homeless.


Headshot of Dr. Margot Kushel

Margot Kushel, MD, is a Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), Director of the Benioff Homelessness and Housing Initiative, and Director of the Center for Vulnerable Populations at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center. Her research focuses on efforts to prevent and end homelessness and mitigate the effects of housing instability on healthcare outcomes with the aim of informing the development of programs and policies to end homelessness. Dr. Kushel was the lead author of The California Statewide Study of People Experiencing Homelessness, a landmark report published in 2023. The largest representative study of homelessness in the United States since the mid-1990s, it provided a comprehensive look at the causes and consequences of homelessness in California and recommended policy changes to shape programs in response.

Featured Panelists

Peggy Bailey is the Vice President for Housing and Income Security at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), where she oversees CBPP’s work to protect and expand access to affordable housing. Bailey, whose work is centered in identifying the ways racism and discrimination in housing policy have resulted in disinvestment in communities of color and created disparate outcomes for people in marginalized groups, has also served as Senior Advisor on Rental Assistance to HUD Secretary Marcia L. Fudge and, before that, as CBPP’s Vice President for Housing Policy.

Dr. Jim O’Connell is the president of Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program, which he founded in 1985.  O’Connell, who also is an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, is the author of Stories from the Shadows: Reflections of a Street Doctor and the editor of The Health Care of Homeless Persons: A Manual of Communicable Diseases and Common Problems in Shelters and on the Streets. His work also is the subject of Rough Sleepers: Dr. Jim O’Connell’s Urgent Mission to Bring Healing to Homeless People, a best-selling book written by Tracy Kidder.

Chris Herbert (moderator) is Managing Director of the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies. He also serves on the Board of Directors of Freddie Mac. Herbert has extensive experience conducting research related to housing policy and urban development, particularly the financial and demographic dimensions of homeownership, and the implications for housing policy. He also has been the Joint Center’s Director of Research and was Senior Associate in the Housing and Community Development practice at Abt Associates.

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