Homelessness and housing insecurity is a growing challenge among students, employees, and community members; the pandemic is only exacerbating this already large problem. According to a 2020 survey of college students by the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice, nearly three in five students had basic needs insecurity and 14 percent reported homelessness. Students of color, students with disabilities, and LQBTQ+ students face even greater disparities. Students enrolled at CUMU member institutions face similar rates.

In 2020, CUMU collaborated with the Homelessness Research & Action Collaborative (HRAC) at Portland State University to establish a working group of ten CUMU member institutions with a shared commitment of developing solutions and actionable steps to address homelessness and housing insecurity. To further this work, CUMU seeks to create an applied research agenda to identify and share what campuses are already doing around research about and programming for homelessness, and to build network capacity to respond to homelessness as urban-serving institutions.

Related story: CUMU research fellowship granted to Portland State University Homelessness Research & Action Collaborative

2021 Summer Action Summit

Homelessness & Housing Insecurity at Urban Institutions and in our Communities: Roles. Responsibilities. Solutions.

CUMU is hosting a summer action summit to address issues of homelessness and housing insecurity for CUMU member institutions and their community partners. CUMU research fellow HRAC will lead the design and implementation with a focus on the growing challenges of housing insecurity and homelessness among students, employees, and community members—all through an equity lens.

The summit will take place virtually on July 27 and July 29. A follow-up session will be held on August 19. The summit is offered at no cost through the generous support of the Kresge Foundation and the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The summit will be divided into two tracks:

  • Track 1 will focus on how homelessness and housing insecurity impacts campus community members, including staff and people living or using resources on campuses, and what campuses can and could do in response to homelessness.
  • Track 2 considers homelessness research and the role of institutions in the broader community.

Questions to be answered include:

  • What research projects are college and university scholars engaging in?
  • How are campuses working with community members to respond to homelessness?
  • What else could colleges and universities as institutional actors, or their faculty, staff, and students be doing to co-construct knowledge, plans, and take action in partnership with community members?

Faculty, campus administrators in housing and student life, and community partners who work in the areas of housing insecurity, homelessness, and intersecting issues are ideal participants. Participants will gain new connections, a broader perspective on research and approaches, and resources to share with partners and colleagues.


The summer action summit will be held over two days in July with a follow-up session in August. Times are approximate and subject to change.

  • Tuesday, July 27, 1–5 p.m. ET
  • Thursday, July 29, 1–5 p.m. ET
  • Thursday, August 19, TBD


We are seeking member feedback so we can best tailor sessions to meet attendee needs. The survey should take no more than five minutes.


“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.”

Marisa Zapata, director, Portland State University HRAC

“Portland State’s Homelessness Research and Action Collaborative will serve as an excellent partner in 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.”

Bobbie Laur, executive director, Coalition of Urban & Metropolitan Universities

“Homelessness is a complex problem that is vexing communities across the country. 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.”

Stephen Percy, president, Portland State University

“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.”

Jacen Greene , co-founder and assistant director, Portland State University HRAC

About CUMU’s Homelessness & Housing Insecurity Research Team

In spring 2021, CUMU developed and granted a research fellowship to the Homelessness Research & Action Collaborative at Portland State University. The six month fellowship will support inquiry and will implement an action summit and develop a toolkit for individuals and groups working to address homelessness.

The Homelessness Research & Action Collaborative brings together 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. Their 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.

Dr. Marisa Zapata is an associate professor of land-use planning at Portland State University and Director of PSU’s Homelessness Research & Action Collaborative. 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.
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.

This research fellowship is supported by The Kresge Foundation.

The Kresge Foundation is a private, national foundation that works to expand opportunities in America’s cities through grantmaking and social investing in arts and culture, education, environment, health, human services and community development in Detroit.

The Kresge Foundation’s American Cities program seeks to expand opportunity by promoting effective and inclusive community development practice in American cities. The program invests in three areas: knowledge exchange; surfacing, seeding and scaling effective and/or new approaches to community development; and place-based work in Memphis and New Orleans.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation is devoted to developing a brighter future for millions of children at risk of poor educational, economic, social and health outcomes.

Their work focuses on strengthening families, building stronger communities and ensuring access to opportunity, because children need all three to succeed. We advance research and solutions to overcome the barriers to success, help communities demonstrate what works and influence decision makers to invest in strategies based on solid evidence.