'Insolent, impudent and vicious': What The Times has said about homeless people in the past

HOMELESSNESS IS AS OLD as Los Angeles. Since The Times began publishing in 1881, it has been filled with editorials and opinion articles about those we have called, at various times, vagrants, hobos, tramps, transients and drifters. Over the years, though, the views of the paper have shifted dramatically — with the changing times and with the changing Times.



In the paper’s earliest days, its attitude toward homeless “vagrants” who were not seeking honest work was that they should be arrested, charged and put to work breaking stones.

From "An Influx of Vagrants" published on Sept. 30, 1882. Click the image to read the full article. Los Angeles Times

In a Sept. 30, 1882, article entitled “An Influx of Vagrants” The Times demanded that Angelenos who encounter the homeless not “feed the worthless chaps. It only encourages them in their idleness and viciousness.”

Who Are Vagrants?
From "What are vagrants?" published on Feb. 13, 1885. Click the image to read the full article. Los Angeles Times

In a Feb. 13, 1885, article entitled "What are vagrants?” the paper applauded an L.A. city ordinance which declared that “every healthy beggar who solicits alms as a business … is a vagrant and punishable by imprisonment in the city jail. … The person so sentenced shall perform labor in the chain-gang of said city.”

Southland on Guard
From the Nov. 5, 1936 piece "Southland on Guard." Click the image to read the full article. Los Angeles Times

On Nov. 5, 1936, The Times lauded police for preventing “the winter invasion of hobos and undesirables” from establishing themselves in Los Angeles, in a piece entitled "Southland on Guard."


Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial series

A Case Against Liberty
Los Angeles Times

The Times editorial board published a 10-part series arguing, in part, that the civil liberties of mentally ill people living on the streets might have to be sacrificed for their own good. It won the Pulitzer Prize in editorial writing.

Read more from The Times’ 2002 Pulitzer-winning series here.


The current crisis

Today, the editorial board finds itself wrestling with many of the exact same issues, including how to balance the rights of the homeless with the needs of the city.

Homeless veteran
A homeless veteran begins to cry in Hollywood on Feb. 20. Los Angeles Times

Homelessness is the most challenging and corrosive issue to face Los Angeles since gang warfare.”

The Times editorial board

Some recent editorials:

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