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Homelessness Research Initiative


The Urban@UW’s Homelessness Research Initiative serves as a nexus for researchers and practitioners to exchange discoveries, experiences, and ideas. By connecting the efforts of faculty from across disciplines and campuses, the Initiative serves to amplify research findings and translate them to a broader community of state and local governments, nonprofit providers, philanthropies, and others dedicated to improving the lives of those experiencing homelessness. The Homelessness Research Initiative unites faculty efforts from across the University of Washington to address homelessness through a research lens.

Interested in staying in the loop? We have two listservs:

Homelessness Research: Click Here to Join Our Listserv for Homelessness Research

Housing Research: Click Here to Join Our Listserv for Housing Research



Initiative Leadership

Faculty Co-Leads: Gregg Colburn, Assistant Professor, Runstad Department of Real Estate ; and  Rachel Fyall, Assistant Professor, Evans School of Public Policy and Governance

Program Coordinator: Hope Freije MLA Candidate, Landscape Architecture

Current Projects

Less than a year after our first gathering of interested faculty members, three new cross-disciplinary projects are underway. With support from the Washington State Legislature, the Doorway Project is piloting an innovative service model for local youth experiencing homelessness. The faculty engaged with the Critical Narratives of Homelessness are exploring mechanisms to inspire more thoughtful public discourse around homelessness. Together with a team of faculty and partnerships across the UW administration, we are working to gather actionable data about the housing and food vulnerabilities of our own student body.

Understanding Housing and Food Insecurity among University of Washington Students

Co-leads: Rachel FyallLynne ManzoChristine Stevens

This survey project investigates the prevalence and characteristics of University of Washington-Seattle, Tacoma and Bothell students experiencing housing and food insecurity. The research will examine the diverse populations that may bear the burden of these inequities, and will pave the way for subsequent qualitative analysis of students’ lived experiences. The baseline data as well as perspectives from students and service providers will inform future interventions for the UW to address this population health challenge effectively.

Critical Narratives of Homelessness

Team: Charlie Collins, Sarah ElwoodAmy HagopianVictoria LawsonLynne Manzo, Graham Pruss, Kathryn Pursch-CornforthAmoshaun Toft

The faculty and staff team is currently developing curriculum elements that will challenge dominant negative cultural narratives through education, engagement with local organizations, and advancement of student capacities for social change. Through this curriculum, faculty members aim to structure a place-based and community engaged process that could result in a public deliverable created by the students and their collaborators. In changing individual perception of narratives of homelessness, the coursework can provide an opportunity for students to become catalysts of thinking for a broader audience.

Primary learning goals for curriculum:

  • Understand cultural stereotypes and political discourses around class and homelessness
  • Identify avenues for making greater narrative change or organizational resistance
  • Challenge dominant narrative (intervene, generate interrupters)
  • Develop/deepen student competency around cross-boundary/interdisciplinary collaboration
  • Work with diverse communities towards a common goal

Doorway Project

Lead: Josephine Ensign, with Wendy Barrington and Charlotte Sanders

The Doorway Project aims to create a pilot café/navigational model that will engage the University District’s homeless, street-involved or marginalized youth; UW students and faculty; and University District service providers in innovative and impactful ways.

The place-based studio/community café will catalyze social innovation through deep participation and mutual learning where interdisciplinary community-campus partnership projects can occur on an ongoing basis. Through participatory research methodologies utilized alongside empathy-centered visual reporting and intervention design, the faculty leads plan to strengthen community resilience and capacity while increasing empathy and understanding of the homeless youth population.

The project is part of a broader initiative which will work to address youth homelessness in the University district, and includes collaboration with the Carlson Leadership and Public Service Center to build upon the services of current local providers in an iterative and community-engaged manner. Learn more about the Doorway Project.

Upcoming Events

March 18 – Understanding Homelessness: Conversations with Service Providers

The second of the series, The Center for Architecture and Design invites homeless service providers to talk about their experiences working both with and for those in our community that are living without permanent shelter. This month speak with Rex Holbein, Founder + Creative Director at Facing Homelessness, Principal at BLOCK Architects, and Co-founder of the BLOCK Project.

Monday, March 18 at 5:30 at the Center for Architecture and Design

1010 Western Ave, Seattle, wWa 98104

Click Here for More Information


March 26 – Coffee with Project Homelessness

The Seattle Times Project Homelessness team is hosting a coffee and inviting feedback on what they have written during the last year that the project has been running. Every staff member on the project will be present and ready to hear your thoughts on how they should be writing about homelessness.

Click Here to RSVP

To suggest a related event, email Hope Freije (







Statewide and beyond:

  • For statewide referrals to food, housing, and many other resources, call 211 on your phone or visit Washington 2-1-1 at
  • Related resources from Tulane University

Partners and Collaborators

Related Coursework

Coming soon!