About Us

PSU Homelessness Collaborative co-founders

Our Center

The Homelessness Research & Action Collaborative brings together expertise and skills from across Portland State University and the country to collaborate with people experiencing homelessness, advocates, service providers, leaders, and other stakeholders. 

Our goal is to reduce homelessness and its negative impact on individuals, families and communities with an emphasis on communities of color through solutions-oriented research
and evidence-based science. You can learn more about our research, evaluation, and impact in our annual report for fiscal year 2019

Core Staff

Marisa Zapata

Dr. Marisa Zapata is an Associate Professor of Land-Use Planning at Portland State University.  She received her Ph.D. in Regional Planning from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, her M.U.P. in Urban Planning from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and B.A. in Anthropology from Rice University.  As an educator, scholar, and planner, Dr. Zapata is committed to achieving spatially - based social justice by preparing planners to act in the face of the uncertain and inequitable futures we face. She believes how we use land reflects our social and cultural values.

Dr. Zapata’s research can be divided into three interrelated questions:
1) How can future-oriented actors plan across deeply embedded cultural differences to produce just and sustainable places?
2) How can planners prepare places to act in the face of uncertainty and the multiple futures that may unfold in a given place? and
3) What are the most effective institutional arrangements between governments and civic society to collaborate regionally? She is especially concerned about equitable planning for uncertain futures in highly diverse communities.

Greg Townley
Research Director

Dr. Greg Townley is an associate professor of community psychology at Portland State University. He received his Ph.D. in Clinical-Community Psychology from the University of South Carolina, his M.A. in Psychology from the University of South Carolina, and B.A.s in Psychology and Africana Studies from North Carolina State University.  Dr. Townley specializes in community psychology, his research examines the impact of individual and environmental factors on community participation and inclusion of individuals with psychiatric disabilities and histories of homelessness. He is also interested in sense of community theory and measurement among members of marginalized groups. 

Central to Dr. Townley’s work is the promotion of positive, reciprocal relationships between academic and community stakeholders. He directs the Community Inclusion Research Group (CIRG) at Portland State University and collaborates with numerous local service providers, including Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare, Central City Concern, Luke-Dorf, and p:ear to address and evaluate issues surrounding homelessness, supportive housing, and community attitudes about mental illness. He also works closely with the Temple University Collaborative on Community Inclusion of Individuals with Psychiatric Disabilities, funded by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR).

Jacen Greene
Assistant Director

Jacen Greene is co-founder and assistant director of PSU's Homelessness Research and Action Collaborative, a multidisciplinary research center dedicated to addressing issues related to homelessness. He graduated Beta Gamma Sigma with an M.B.A. in sustainability from Portland State University, and magna cum laude with a B.A. in China Studies from Willamette University. Jacen previously managed social innovation programs in PSU's School of Business, and is an instructor, speaker, and author on social entrepreneurship. His books include The Rule of One: The Power of Social Intrapreneurship and Elevating Impact: Case Studies in Sustainable Business and Social Entrepreneurship. He has contributed chapters to Evaluating Changemaker Education and Preparing Students for a Rapidly Changing World. His case studies have won multiple international awards and have been used by more than 4500 students and faculty around the world.

Jacen has led workshops for Mercy Corps, the Fulbright Program, and AmeriCorps, and has presented at the Net Impact Conference, GoGreen PDX, VentureWell OPEN, Ashoka U Exchange, and Social Enterprise World Forum, among many others. He has worked or taught in Uganda, Tunisia, India, China, Cambodia, Honduras, and Nicaragua.

Maude Hines

Maude Hines is an Associate Professor in English at Portland State University.  She received her Ph.D. in Literature from Duke University in 1998 with graduate certificates in African-American Studies and Women's Studies, and a B.A. from The City College of New York. She specializes in American literature. Her teaching and research focuses on Anglo-American children's literature, African American literature and cultural studies. She is currently completing a manuscript on citizen formation in late nineteenth-century American children's literature. She is also working on a project about the treatment of racial transformation in American cultural production. Her published work includes articles on Philip Pullman, Alice Walker and Paule Marshall, Ecocriticism in Children's Literature, and Louisa May Alcott.

Lisa Hawash

Lisa Hawash is an Associate Professor of Practice and Master of Social Work Online Option Coordinator at Portland State University.  She received her M.S.W and B.S. from Portland State University. Lisa’s professional focus is in community based practice, non-profit program management and leadership, strategic fund development and communications. Lisa's social work practice and research interests are focused on poverty and homelessness, specifically access to hygiene for folks who are living outside.

Todd Ferry

Todd Ferry is a Senior Research Associate and Faculty Fellow at the Center for Public Interest Design within the School of Architecture at Portland State University. He received his Master of Architecture from the University of Texas-Austin and a B.A. in Philosophy from the University of Georgia. Before pursuing architecture, Todd worked for over a decade in the nonprofit field, including founding KIU ART, a service-learning organization working with a small community in Mwanza, Tanzania to build classrooms and exchange ideas. His background and interest in working with underserved populations led him to seek opportunities to apply his skills as a designer toward public interest design efforts. To that end, he has been active in leading and participating in progressive design-build projects around the world.

Todd is currently involved in many projects at the Center for Public Interest Design, including the design of a sustainable community center in Inner Mongolia, China; a collaboration with the Portland Opera to create a mobile opera stage to bring the arts to more communities; and the POD Initiative to provide new visions for addressing houselessness in Portland using a participatory design and construction process. Todd is a Faculty Fellow at the Institute for Sustainable Solutions, Director of the Architecture Summer Immersion Program at the PSU School of Architecture, coordinator of PSU’s Graduate Certificate in Public Interest Design, and Co-Founder of PSU’s Homelessness Research and Action Collaborative.

Sergio Palleroni

Professor Sergio Palleroni is a faculty member and director of the Center for Public Interest Design in the School of Architecture at Portland State University. He also serves as a Senior Fellow of the Institute for Sustainable Solutions and is a founding member and faculty of the federally funded Green Building Research Lab at Portland State University. Professor Palleroni received his M.S. in Architectural Studies from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Oregon.  His research and fieldwork for the last two decades has been in the methods of integrating sustainable practices to improve the lives of underserved communities worldwide. In 1988, to serve the needs of these communities he founded an academic outreach program that would later become the BASIC Initiative (www.basicinitiative.org), a service-learning fieldwork program. Today, the BASIC Initiative continues to serve the poor in Asia, Latin America, Africa and the U.S. In addition, Professor Palleroni has worked and been a consultant on sustainable architecture and development in the developing world since the 1980s, for both not-for-profit agencies and governmental and international agencies such as UNESCO, World Bank, and the governments of China, Colombia, Costa Rica, India, Kenya, Mexico, Nicaragua and Taiwan.

Paula Carder

Paula Carder is a professor with the OHSU-PSU School of Public Health and a researcher with the Institute on Aging at Portland State University. She received her Ph.D. in Aging, Public Policy & Health from Portland State University, her M.A. from the University of Pennsylvania, and a B.S. from West Virginia University. Her research focuses on socio-cultural aspects of housing and long-term care for older persons and adults with disabilities. Her research also explores the relationship between state regulatory requirements and daily practices associated with medication administration and staffing in assisted living and dementia care facilities. She conducts a state-wide survey of assisted living, memory care, and adult foster homes for the Oregon Department of Human Services. She also was the lead evaluator of a recent Oregon Health Authority-sponsored program to coordinate health and housing services for low-income residents of 11 publicly-subsidized apartment buildings. Carder also has mentored students in the BUILD EXITO program, an undergraduate research training program at PSU that supports students on their pathway to become scientific researchers.

Marta Petteni
Designer and Research Analyst

Marta Petteni is an Italian Architect currently working at the Homelessness Research and Action Collaborative as a designer and researcher. She completed her studies at University of Gdansk, Poland; University of Quito, Ecuador; and Politecnico of Milan, Italy, where she gained a Bachelor and Master in the Science of Architecture with the highest honors. Marta has worked on a range of international projects and, together with two colleagues, she built “Kaymanta,” a community-based tourism project developed with and for an indigenous community in Ecuador. The project received the PoliMi Thesis Abroad Prize in 2016. Following her passion for post-disaster and emergency architecture, in 2017 she earned her Master in “International Cooperation and Sustainable Emergency Architecture” at UIC Barcelona.

In summer 2016, Marta moved to Portland to work with the Center for Public Interest Design (CPID) at PSU, where she merged research and design to address the needs of underserved communities worldwide. At CPID she worked on a variety of projects including: transit design for community impact in Sacramento, California; the design and construction of Homeless Villages in Portland, Oregon; and a cultural center for Chamanga, Ecuador. Marta strongly believes in architecture as a powerful tool for social change, and she is particularly interested in challenging the meaning of success (and failure) of architecture and the tools to evaluate it. Her research focuses on pressing environmental and social issues such as climate change, social justice, post-disaster recovery, and emergency relief, while her practice complements this research through her work with communities and design-built projects worldwide.

Stefanie Knowlton
Communications Specialist

Stefanie Knowlton helps tell HRAC's story through written and visual communications including newsletters, online stories and the website. She joined PSU in 2019. Previously, Stefanie worked as a print journalist with a daily newspaper in Salem, Oregon for 15 years, earning multiple national awards. She also worked for an education nonprofit as a grant writer and most recently managed the library program at an elementary school. Stefanie earned a BA in journalism at the University of Oregon in 2000. She volunteers for TEDxSalem, an independently-run TED event, as the lead editor. She also serves on the board of Salem INDUS, a nonprofit that organizes cultural events to foster mutual appreciation of the United States and the nations of the Indian subcontinent.

Tania Hoode
Program Assistant

Tania Hoode provides administrative support for PSU’s two new Centers of Excellence, making sure all the details behind the scenes are addressed professionally, accurately, and on time. She also offers a friendly face at the front desk and keeps the office running smoothly. Tania joined PSU in 2012 as the program assistant at the Institute for Sustainable Solutions, having spent 11 years working in the renewable energy industry with nonprofits and corporations. Tania has also worked as a naturalist at Moran Outdoor School on Orcas Island and the Island Institute in the San Juan Islands. Tania holds a BA in Environmental Studies from The Evergreen State College and is a Certified Sustainable Building Advisor (CSBA). She is also a certified OSU Extension Master Gardener volunteer.

Mckinsey Carroll
Communications Assistant

Mckinsey Carroll provides support in HRAC’s visual and written communications, creating graphics and multimedia content for social media, the website, and other deliverables. She is a Junior in PSU’s Graphic Design program, with academic recognitions on the Dean’s and President’s Lists. She’s a two-time graduate of American Savings Bank’s Summer Internship, where she worked in internal communications.

Our National Research Advisory Board

Ann M. Aviles, PhD

Assistant Professor, Human Development and Family Sciences, University of Delaware

Dr. Aviles is a community-based, applied social science researcher with a specific focus on the developmental trajectories, academic and life skills, of youth of color experiencing homelessness/housing instability. While her work primarily addresses youth homelessness, it also emphasizes an analysis of institutional structures and practices that contribute to and maintain inequitable conditions of poverty frequently resulting in poor educational/health outcomes for this often-overlooked youth population. Dr. Aviles’ work underscores equity and access for all marginalized populations, including Black and Latinx individuals, women, individuals experiencing poverty and homelessness, and individuals grappling with mental illness, violence and trauma.

Samantha Batko Senior Research Associate, Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center at the Urban Institute Batko's areas of expertise are homelessness, housing instability, housing assistance, and supportive services. Her current projects include the evaluations of Tipping Point Community's Chronic Homelessness Initiative in San Francisco, HUD-DOJ Pay for Success permanent supportive housing demonstration, and New Jersey's Keeping Families Together program for permanent supportive housing for child-welfare involved as well as a national landscape assessment of youth housing programs. Before joining Urban, Batko spent 12 years at the National Alliance to End Homelessness, where she developed expertise in homelessness and housing policy, research, and technical assistance.
Elizabeth Bowen, PhD Assistant Professor, Social Work, University of Buffalo Dr. Bowen's research addresses the links between homelessness, health, and well-being, for groups including young adults, cross-systems youth, and formerly homeless individuals living in permanent supportive housing. Dr. Bowen also conducts policy research and co-developed a framework for trauma-informed social policy analysis. Dr. Bowen received her PhD from the Jane Addams College of Social Work at the University of Illinois at Chicago and previously worked as a manager of harm reduction-based supportive housing programs in Chicago.
Daniel Castellanos, DrPH Director of Research & Innovation, Latino Commission on AIDS In a previous role at the Hispanic AIDS Forum, Dr. Castellanos oversaw HIV prevention and supportive programs, including staff supervision, program development, grant management, and fiscal oversight for programs at the Hispanic AIDS Forum and Queens Pride House. At The Partnership for the Homeless, Dr. Castellanos oversaw efforts to enhance the effectiveness of services for homeless families and individuals, including implementation of needs assessments and development of evidence-based service models.
Rashida Crutchfield, PhD Assistant Professor, School of Social Work, Cal State Long Beach

Dr. Rashida Crutchfield is an associate professor in the School of Social Work at California State University, Long Beach. She is an advocate committed to amplifying the voices of marginalized communities through research and service. Prior to her work at CSULB, she served on the staff of Covenant House California, a shelter for 18-to-24-year-olds experiencing homelessness. This experience gave her insight into practice for this population. Her areas of practice and research focus on student homelessness in higher education, basic need security for students, and social work community practice. Dr. Crutchfield was commissioned to lead the phase one of the California State University Office of the Chancellor study on food and housing security and was co-principal investigator for phases two and three of the same study.

Dennis P. Culhane, PhD Professor of Social Policy; Co-PI, Actionable Intelligence for Social Policy (AISP), University of Pennsylvania

Dr. Culhane is a social science researcher with primary expertise in the area of homelessness and assisted housing policy. His work has contributed to efforts to address the housing and support needs of people experiencing housing emergencies and long-term homelessness. Most recently, Culhane’s research has focused on using linked administrative data to gain a better understanding about the service utilization patterns of vulnerable populations, including youth exiting foster care and/or juvenile justice, as well as the individuals aged 55 and older who are experiencing homelessness. From July 2009 – June 2018 he served as Director of Research at the National Center on Homelessness Among Veterans, an initiative of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Josephine Ensign, DrPH Professor;
Director, Homelessness Research Initiative’s Doorway Project, University of Washington
Dr. Ensign is professor of nursing and adjunct professor in the School of Arts and Sciences, Department of Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies at the University of Washington in Seattle where she teaches health policy, health politics, and health humanities. Her scholarship focuses on health and social inequities for people marginalized by poverty and homelessness. She is the author of numerous academic and narrative medicine journal articles, as well as the 2016 narrative policy book Catching Homelessness: A Nurse’s Story of Falling Through the Safety Net and the 2018 health humanities book Soul Stories: Voices from the Margins. 
Judith G. Gonyea, PhD Professor, Social Research; Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs, Boston U Dr. Gonyea is the author of more 100 publications, often centering on historically disadvantaged older populations with the goal of advancing equity. In her work, she uses an intersectionality lens to explore how individuals’ multiple identities (e.g., gender, age, race) intertwine to shape their aging experience. One strand of Gonyea’s research focuses on elder care, especially the gendered nature of caregiving and how culture shapes health behaviors. Gonyea is a fellow and past elected chair of the Social Research, Policy and Practice Section of Gerontological Society of America and an elected member in the National Academy of Social Insurance and the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare. 
Margot Kushel, PhD Professor of Medicine;
Director UCSF Center for Vulnerable Populations, UC San Francisco
Dr. Kushel's research focuses on reducing the burden of homelessness on health through examining efforts to prevent and end homelessness and mitigating the effects of housing instability on health care outcomes. She has a particular interest in homelessness in older adults and homelessness in medically complicated individuals. She is the PI of an NIA funded R01 that developed the HOPE HOME (Health Outcomes in Populations Experiencing Homelessness in Older Middle agE) cohort, an ongoing longitudinal cohort study examining the causes and effects of homelessness on adults aged 50 and over in Oakland, CA.
Michael Lens, PhD Associate Faculty Director, Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies; Associate Professor, Urban Planning and Public Policy, UC Los Angeles Dr. Lens’s research and teaching explore the potential of public policy to address housing market inequities that lead to negative outcomes for low-income families and communities of color. This research involves housing interventions such as subsidies, tenant protections, and production. Dr. Lens regularly publishes this work in leading academic journals and his research has won awards from the Journal of the American Planning Association and Housing Policy Debate. Dr. Lens’s research has received funding from the MacArthur Foundation, the Arnold Foundation, and the Terner Center for Housing Innovation, among other sources.
Norweeta Milburn, PhD Director of Research and Evaluation, Nathanson Family Resilience Research Center, UC Los Angeles

Dr. Milburn has been a principal investigator for National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) research on homeless adults and youth, and African American youth. She has examined paths into and out of homelessness, as well as the risk for HIV among homeless youth in the U.S. and Australia. She has designed and implemented a behavioral intervention for homeless adolescents at risk for HIV and their families, and she also has designed and tested recruitment strategies for behavioral substance abuse interventions. Dr. Milburn is a Fellow in the American Psychological Association (APA). She has been a member of the APA Committee on Children, Youth and Families, and recently chaired the APA 2009 Presidential Task Force on Psychology’s Contribution to End Homelessness.  

Matthew Mitchell Data Analytics Manager, Central City Concern
Matthew Mitchell has worked in affordable housing and homeless health care since 2007. He currently serves as the data analytics manager at Central City Concern, a homeless services nonprofit in Portland, OR. He leverages analytics and human-centered design to shape strategic responses to complex health and social needs.
Deborah Padgett, PhD Professor, Social Work and Global Health, New York University Dr. Padgett is known for her expertise in qualitative/mixed methods and is the author of two textbooks in this area. She is an expert on the ‘housing first’ approach to ending homelessness and is first author of a book on housing
first published by Oxford University Press (2016). She has published extensively on homelessness and mental health services research in journal articles. Dr. Padgett received two all-qualitative R01 grants from the National Institute of Mental Health from 2004 to 2016, both of which examined mental health and substance abuse recovery among formerly homeless
persons living in supportive housing. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare and former President of the Society for Social Work and Research.
Gary Painter, PhD Professor;
Director, Sol Price Center for Social Innovation and Homelessness Policy Research Institute, University of Southern California

Dr. Painter is a Professor in the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy at the University of Southern California and serves as the Director of the Sol Price Center for Social Innovation and the Homelessness Policy Research Institute. Professor Painter is a leading figure in the field of social innovation, working extensively with a variety of social innovation organizations and collective impact networks to address some of the grand challenges that society faces. His current research focuses on how to activate the social innovation process.

Anna Plumb Evaluation and Research Manager, Multnomah County Budget Office Plumb leads an evaluation and research team performing program evaluation and research in the areas of employee experience, workforce equity, and program effectiveness for an organization of over 5,500 employees. Plumb's role also includes consulting countywide on evaluation and research practice, and she serves as an evaluation partner to the Multnomah County Joint Office of Homeless Services, including co-chairing the A Home for Everyone Coordinating Board’s Data, Outcomes, and Evaluation subcommittee. In this role she authored a unique analysis of spending on services for people experiencing homelessness in the Portland Metro region, examining four fiscal years of spending data from multiple jurisdictions. Plumb also sits on the board of JOIN: Connecting the Street to a Home. 
Maria Elena Ruiz, PhD Associate Director, Chicano Studies Research Center; Adjunct Associate Professor, School of Nursing, UC Los Angeles

Dr. Ruiz has over 25 years’ experience as a teacher, clinician, and researcher. Her research and teaching integrates a multidisciplinary approach, interweaving nursing, medicine, language/culture, and the behavioral sciences. She is a nationally and internationally recognized Latina nurse leader and has received several awards for her Spanish language/Latino culture programs, research on aging minorities, clinical work in high risk communities, as well as advocacy and mentoring of underrepresented students. Dr. Ruiz’s research includes studies on diabetes among Latinos, older Black and Latino men living with HIV/AIDS, and empowering nurse case managers in interdisciplinary teams in Latino communities.

Beth Shinn, PhD Professor, Human and Organizational Development, Vanderbilt University Dr. Shinn is a Cornelius Vanderbilt professor at Vanderbilt University. She studies how to prevent and end homelessness and create opportunities for groups that face social exclusion. Her book with Jill Khadduri, In the Midst of Plenty: Homelessness and What to do About it, argues that research shows how to end homelessness, if we devote the resources to do so.
Julian M. Somers Professor, Simon Fraser University Dr. Julian Somers has led large scale studies addressing homelessness, mental illness, addiction, crime and community safety. He is a Professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University, and works to promote change with people who experience homelessness and those in positions of influence. Dr. Somers’ clinical specialty is addiction, trained by Drs. G Alan Marlatt and Bruce Alexander.
Sharon Egretta Sutton, PhD Distinguished Visiting Professor, Parsons School of Design, The New School

Dr. Sharon Egretta Sutton, FAIA is an activist educator and public scholar who promotes inclusivity in the cultural makeup of the city-making professions and in the populations they serve, and also advocates for participatory planning and design processes in disenfranchised communities. Dr. Sutton, who previously practiced architecture in New York City, was the twelfth African American woman to be licensed to practice architecture, the first to be promoted to full professor of architecture, the second to be elected a Fellow in the American Institute of Architects (AIA), and the first to be president of the National Architectural Accrediting Board.

Jack Tsai, PhD Staff Psychologist, VA;
Director, National Center on Homelessness Among Veterans, Department of Veterans Affairs

Dr. Tsai has been affiliated with the National Center on Homelessness Among Veterans since its creation in 2009 when he was the Center’s first fellow. He has held several research and administrative roles in the VA, and has over a decade of clinical experience providing direct patient care to veterans. He is currently based at VA Connecticut and serves on the faculty at Yale School of Medicine where he is Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Director of the Division of Mental Health Services Research. Dr. Tsai has published extensively on housing and healthcare services for homeless veterans. He serves as Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Social Distress and the Homeless, and is Associate Editor for Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy.

Jacob Wagner, PhD Associate Professor, Director of Urban Studies Co-Founder, Center for Neighborhoods, University of Missouri Kansas City

Dr. Wagner's expertise lies in the fields of community development, planning and urban history, and historic preservation. His area of specialty includes the city of New Orleans where he lived and worked for 5 years. His research addresses the role of the historic urban built environment in the politics of race and collective memory. Prior to his work at UMKC, Dr. Wagner taught courses in community development at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota, and courses in planning history and urban studies in the College of Urban and Public Affairs at the University of New Orleans. He has also worked in planning and community development in Oregon. He is currently a member of the editorial board for the Journal of Urban Design.