College of Arts and Sciences
Communication Department

2013 Research Program

  • This year's program offers weekly instruction on the history of vehicle residency in the western world, starting from a broad view of the subject in the 1800s and narrowing to the current study areas. We use an anthropologic and ethnoarchaeological perspective, using ethnographic and historic texts and videos on “homelessness” and poverty in North America.  

    Students are offered the opportunity to participate in a weekly community meal with members of the vehicle resident community, so they can meet our unsheltered research collaborators in a friendly and supportive setting.  

    Because this program is based in field research, all Seattle University students and volunteers participate in a field study of vehicle residency throughout Seattle. Our program offers two avenues of research for students: the Population Count Project and the Demographics Project.   

    Population Count Project

    Our Population Count Project teams collect mapped data on neighborhoods throughout Seattle to compare with our previous two years of information. Students receive field training to perform vehicle residence mapping within their study areas. This data is compiled at the end of the study and converted to geographic information systems (GIS) format for correlation with past and companion data sets.

    Results of data collected during the Population Count Project are used to show how vehicle residents use public space as a resource, how parking ordinance affects vehicle residency, and what charactertistics are common to areas with high vehicle residency. Student collected research data is published in our yearly advisory reports.


    Demographics Project

    This year’s program introduces a Demographics Project which will research and develop techniques for collecting demographics on populations which use invisibility as a survival strategy such as vehicle residents. When we are confident in our techniques, we will begin demographics collection under the supervision of our project lead.

    Data collected through these techniques will be compiled, statistically analyzed and published in our yearly advisory reports.


    Students have the opportunity to directly affect local policy and funding for homelessness and to learn methods of policy change. Techniques developed during our research are used to assist organizations who provide local statistics for federal funding. Data collected by student researchers is used to advise local government and service providers on where and how resources can be best applied.