Photos: An uncomfortable look at homelessness during the pandemic

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Sometimes it can feel like driving through the Great Depression. Only, it’s Southern California in the year 2021.

Homeless encampments — modern-day Hoovervilles — are steadily spreading across the vast sprawl of Los Angeles.

The scenes evoke John Steinbeck’s classic novel “The Grapes of Wrath.”

A man dances near an encampment in Wilmington.

(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

“There ain’t no sin and there ain’t no virtue. There’s just stuff people do.”

John Steinbeck

A view of tents amid towering palm trees at night.

Tents line the street near an encampment in Venice Beach.

(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

The 2020 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count indicated that more than 66,000 people in Los Angeles County were experiencing homelessness. Some are living on the streets of L.A., hunkered down in dilapidated campers, tents, or makeshift hovels of cardboard, wooden pallets and plastic tarps.

Trash piles up beside skeleton frames of shopping carts and bicycles.

Debris from a homeless encampment piles up near the Hollywood Freeway

Debris from a homeless encampment piles up near the Hollywood Freeway

(Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times)

In 2016, voters approved Proposition HHH, the sale of $1.2 billion in bonds to help finance thousands of units of housing for homeless and low-income people in Los Angeles.

In the four years since the first bonds were issued, only seven projects with a total of 489 units have been completed and occupied.

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Project sites cause anxiety and animosity among neighbors.

A woman skates by a homeless encampment in Venice Beach.

A woman skates by a homeless encampment in Venice Beach.

(Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times)

Photographer Dorothea Lange said the camera was an instrument that taught people how to see without a camera.

Lange worked with the Farm Security Administration to document the Great Depression in the 1930s.

Scenes reminiscent of her images of displacement and poverty are materializing all around us today.

A black and white closeup of a woman with a worried expression and children leaning on her.

Dorothea Lange’s iconic “Migrant Mother,” taken in March 1936 in Nipomo, Calif.

(Library of Congress)

The faces of homelessness in L.A. County.

The faces of homelessness in L.A. County.

(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

“How can we live without our lives? How will we know it’s us without our past?”

John Steinbeck

People ride bike at sunset as they pass a homeless encampment in Venice Beach.

People ride bike at sunset as they pass a homeless encampment in Venice Beach.

(Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times)

RV's used to house homeless in Boyle Heights.

RV’s used to house homeless in Boyle Heights.

(Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times)

A homeless man and his belongs stand outside city hall in downtown Los Angeles.

A homeless man and his belongs stand outside city hall in downtown Los Angeles.

(Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times)

More visual journalism from the Los Angeles Times

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