College of Arts and Sciences


  • Students Undertake Study of People Living in Their Vehicles

    March 23, 2012

    Student researchers are conducting ethnographic and demographic research on individuals and families living in vehicles. The Seattle Vehicular Residency Research Project centers on the Ballard and University District neighborhoods.

    The Vehicular Residency Research Project (VRRP) is a new initiative of the Center for Strategic Communications. The center, part of the Communication Department, provides funding for journalism, research, and community outreach centered on family homelessness and other issues. Its major initiative is the Project on Family Homelessness, funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Graham Pruss, who conducted award-winning research on this topic and received a fellowship from the Center this year, leads the VRRP team.

    Service providers, advocates, governments, and media are aware that people are living in their vehicles. With the recent downturn in the economy, they remind us of prolonged unemployment, high home foreclosures, and deficient social safety nets.

    “When people aren’t counted, they become invisible,” said Professor Barry Mitzman, Director of the Center for Strategic Communications. “Funding and resources for those in need become even more scarce.”

    Vehicle residents present special challenges to governmental, advocacy, local faith communities and social service agencies eager to find ways to help. People living in their vehicles often have special needs and survival strategies which help explain their use of specific public space and resources.

    At the end of the project, data will be published along with guides for collecting this information. An advisory report will be provided to the Seattle King County’s Coalition on Homelessness.

    The College of Arts and Sciences, the largest college in Seattle University, offers 33 undergraduate and 7 advanced degrees. The Communication Department has degree programs in communication studies, journalism, and strategic communications.


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