“I can't live in limbo for two years. Because that's what we are. We are living in limbo here.” This is how Patricia, a Southern California resident who lost her house in the Woolsey Fire, described how she felt about her living arrangement eight months later, in July of 2019. The Woolsey Fire ignited on November 8, 2018, in Los Angeles and Ventura counties, California. Among the unprecedented destruction, at least 400 homes burned down. Patricia, her family, and many neighbors are still experiencing displacement, living in temporary housing. From a cultural- ecological perspective, when a response to displacement fails, it becomes yet another disaffection that needs to be overcome; it is yet another trauma. However, there are hardly any studies on what these peoples’ lives look like living in transition: how they view and cope with living in temporary housing while managing the loss of their homes. This study seeks an in-depth understanding, from the perspective of the displaced, of how have people made places for themselves while living in temporary housing? Data from observations (including walkthroughs) and open-ended interviews conducted over the Summer of 2019 inform preliminary findings. These revealed three themes. First, despite variability in the types of arrangements made by displaced families, their life experiences in temporary housing hold similarities, emphasizing the potential role played by the temporal dimension, along with the spatial constraints foreseen in this study. Second, data seems to confirm that a temporary living arrangement might be a house, but not always a home, as previously suggested. Lastly, living in temporary housing may negatively influence one's wellbeing over undesired spatial characteristics, and the absence of lost objects. All three elements seem to play a role in the quality of peoples’ daily lives and in the management of their recovery processes.
*All names are pseudonyms.
As a trained Architect and Urbanist, Mariana Junqueira has taken an interdisciplinary approach to Architectural and Urban studies. While working toward a B.A. in Architecture and Urbanism, she has earned a B.A. in Interior Design and a specialist degree in Interior and Lighting Design. She also earned a master’s degree in Planning, History, and Architecture of Cities and then she came to the U.S. for a Ph.D. in Planning, Policy, and Design in the School of Social Ecology. Currently, she is a Pedagogical Fellow (Division of Teaching Excellence and Innovation) and an intern at the Orange Coast College through the California Community Colleges Internship Program (Graduate Division) at UCI.
As a Ph.D. Candidate in Planning, Policy, and Design, with an emphasis on Visual Studies, she positions herself and her scholarship as part of a broader research interest that aims to explore rising issues of placemaking and displacement in an environmentally changing world. In this context, disasters are only increasing in frequency and intensity, and the current lack of harmonious connections with our surroundings accounts for many misconceptions involving wildfires. Helping to correct these misconceptions is not an academic exercise; it is a goal in her doctoral dissertation research.