UW anthropologist talks about unique circumstances of vehicle residency


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    Graham Pruss

As cities nationwide grapple with solutions to homelessness, the University of Washington's Graham Pruss believes one segment of the homeless population is frequently overlooked: People who live in their vehicles. 

“We need to recognize that a significant number of people are relying on a vehicle as their long-term primary shelter. But giving them a parking ticket or a simple parking space won’t fix this,” says Pruss, a doctoral candidate in the UW Department of Anthropology. 

Cities often have nightly street-parking restrictions, which directly affect vehicle residents, and a lack of services and infrastructure for this specific population. He suggests cities include the vehicle resident population in their emergency shelter and services planning and, where appropriate, create safe parking areas, which would also provide hygiene facilities and direct connections to professional social services.

Pruss can speak to:

  • How observers determine whether a car, truck or RV is being used as a shelter;
  • Why vehicles are a common, yet overlooked, form of shelter locally and across the nation;
  • How parking restrictions and a lack of services affect the vehicle resident population;
  • The ways officials and organizations can better serve the vehicle resident community

Pruss created the methodology by which a Seattle advocacy organization, All Home King County, counts people who live in their vehicles. He also contracts as the liaison for the unsheltered community to the city of Seattle's Department of Neighborhoods. 

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