The Project on Family Homelessness used journalism, art and storytelling projects to help engage the community to make family homelessness rare, brief and one time only in Washington state. The oldest continuous homelessness advocacy project at Seattle University, we were established in 2009 through a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. An eighth grant from the Gates Foundation enabled us to continue our communications and advocacy work through mid-2020.
Seattle University's Center for Strategic Communications (CSC) established the project in late 2009 with the creation of the Journalism Fellowships on Family Homelessness. The fellowships program yielded outstanding and unprecedented in-depth reporting by eight different news organizations and independent journalists, and was commended by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism.
In 2011, the project's name changed to the Project on Family Homelessness to reflect its expanded scope beyond journalism fellowships. We helped draw attention to family homelessness among veterans and brought our message to the public in unexpected settings, including public art and community events.
Since 2013, our focus has been on supporting our family homelessness advocacy partners -- the non-profit organizations in Washington state who work to end family homelessness. Our role is to serve as a convener of those partner organizations; assist them with communications projects; and create content they can use in their advocacy work. A fourth function is to coordinate special projects like StoryCorps, The Moth and the "Streetwise Revisited" project.
In 2016 we moved to our new home in SU's Institute of Public Service, where the Master of Public Administration and Bachelor of Public Affairs degree programs are offered, as is the minor in Nonprofit and Public Administration.
For more current work, check out our Portfolio Site, a showcase of news about community events, collaborations with partners, data sharing and more.
We are updating this page as we approach the end of our project in August 2020; please check back!
Our Journalism Fellowships on Family Homelessness in 2010-11 were the first of their kind and resulted in award-winning, ground-breaking journalism projects in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties.
We ventured into arts-related community events when we hosted a visit with filmmaker Alexandra Pelosi for our first-ever film screenings, in Tacoma and Seattle, of Pelosi's HBO documentary "Homeless: The Motel Kids of Orange County."
Later that year, as family homelessness among military veterans became more prevalent, we turned to experts for advice on how to help thousands of active-duty servicemen and servicewomen return to civilian life and housing stability; a visit from ABC News correspondent Bob Woodruff was a highlight.
We shifted our focus to a model that would serve our nonprofit partners with communications work, and allow us flexibility to take on special projects. For the first time, we hired each year a team of outstanding Seattle University students with skills in digital design, event management, and more, and began functioning as a pro bono communications agency. Often, our students took the initiative to propose and lead projects.
Our four strategies:
We brought our partners together 2-4 times a year at Seattle University for "Convenings," to share progress, talk about ways we could collaborate and share learning experiences together. Recent highlights included expanded Convenings in 2019 for larger audiences of communicators, with a workshop on changing the housing narrative featuring nationally recognized expert on strategic casemaking, Dr. Tiffany Manuel; and an Equitable Storytelling workshop presented by three of our partners who specialize in strengths- and values-based storytelling.
We helped partners increase the effectiveness of their advocacy events and campaigns by serving on their planning committees, hosting campus events, creating promotional and educational materials and producing high-visibility exhibits. Some examples:
Here's where our student team was in highest demand from partners. Some highlights:
Our grant gave us the flexibility to take on special projects as they arose. A few highlights:
This work on behalf of our wonderful community partners is only possible because of the excellent Seattle University students who served as project assistants from 2012-2020
*also served as freelancers or temporary employees after graduation
And to our two project coordinators: Graham Pruss (2013-14) and Perry Firth (2014-16).
Thank you to our colleagues in the Communication Department (2010-2016) and Institute of Public Service (2016-2020) for providing a welcoming home to us. Thank you to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for funding our work and for their investments in family homelessness in our region. And finally, to Seattle University for making us proud every day to be part of this community.