PSU research center earns national fellowship to address homelessness

Homelessness Research & Action Collaborative is the first center to receive a fellowship from the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities

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Portland State University’s Homelessness Research & Action Collaborative (HRAC) is the first university center to receive a research fellowship from the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities (CUMU).

CUMU is known as the longest-running and largest organization committed to serving and connecting the world’s urban and metropolitan universities and their partners. The research fellowship includes six months of collaboration with the coalition, designing and leading CUMU’s 2021 Summer Action Summit on addressing housing insecurity and homelessness, identification of research projects and securing support for projects identified. 

“This partnership will help us collaborate with universities and researchers around the country to identify how we can better address homelessness, particularly for people of color, on campuses and in communities through research and action,” said center Director Dr. Marisa Zapata

Nearly half of the students surveyed at PSU experienced housing insecurity, and one in six experienced homelessness, according to the center’s 2020 Housing and Food Insecurity Report. Students of color experienced disproportionately higher rates. 

Campuses around the country face similar rates of student homelessness and housing insecurity and even higher rates for students of color, according to the 2020 Hope Center national survey of college students. Housing insecurity impacts student wellness, grades and retention. 

"Homelessness is a complex problem that is vexing communities across the country," said PSU President Stephen Percy. "I am proud to see the expertise of the Homelessness Research and Action Collaborative recognized with this fellowship. The work that emerges from this collaboration will support Portland State's mission as an urban serving university and our ongoing effort to pursue racial justice and equity."

The homelessness research center first partnered with CUMU last year to establish a national working group of partner colleges and universities with a shared commitment to public interest research in homelessness and housing insecurity. This fellowship expands that work into an actionable research agenda.

“Portland State's Homelessness Research and Action Collaborative will serve as an excellent partner for furthering this work across the coalition. Addressing homelessness and housing insecurity for our students, faculty, staff and community is a critical issue area and one we are committed to not just talking about but making substantive progress on,” said CUMU Executive Director Bobbie Laur.  

CUMU strives to help strengthen institutions that are developing responses to the educational, economic and social issues of the day, including homelessness and housing insecurity. Over the past several years, it has deepened its work on research and added a fellowship program. HRAC is the second fellow announced.

“We are truly honored to be recognized as a research fellow and excited for the potential as we continue to build on our work with CUMU and partner institutions,” said HRAC’s Assistant Director Jacen Greene.

The Homelessness Research & Action Collaborative (HRAC) is an interdisciplinary research center at Portland State University dedicated to reducing and preventing homelessness and its negative impacts on individuals, families and communities, with an emphasis on communities of color. The center brings together expertise from across PSU’s colleges and the community. 

Researchers partner with community members with lived experience of homelessness, advocates, service providers, policymakers and other stakeholders. Last fall, the center conducted one of the first comprehensive surveys in the country that included information on both student and employee homelessness and housing insecurity as well as recommendations to address it.