Dr. Graham J. Pruss is an ethno-archaeologist who studies vehicle residency in North America. His research focuses on the intersection of lived experiences, social services, legal systems, and public policy development. Graham joined the Benioff Homelessness and Housing Initiative at the University of California San Francisco’s Center for Vulnerable Populations as a Postdoctoral Scholar in 2020, after receiving his PhD from the University of Washington Department of Anthropology. Dr. Pruss mixes participatory, qualitative, and quantitative methods to better inform policy makers and convey complex research to non-academic audiences. Graham was inspired to focus on the habitation of vehicles in public space by extensive travel with his family in vehicles during his childhood and close relationships with long-term vehicle residents throughout his life. He brings diverse perspectives to research on housing adaptation and instability, as a former social service outreach specialist for vehicle residents (2013-2015) and previous recipient of social welfare programs as a homeless youth and teen parent in the 1990s.
Graham directed the Vehicular Residency Research Program (VRRP) at Seattle University from 2012 to 2013, where field researchers mapped anonymous vehicle residence settlement patterns correlated with parking restrictions and enforcement. Their researchers developed a vehicle residence identification methodology, that has been adopted for the annual official King County Point-in-Time counts of "unsheltered" people (2017-2022). Pruss presented on the state of vehicle residency to Seattle City Council in 2012, and in 2015 joined All Home - the (US HUD mandated) Seattle/King County Continuum of Care coordinating agency - where he served on the Executive Board, Governing Board and as co-Chair of the Policy Committee. Graham has worked as a Liaison for the Unhoused Community with the City of Seattle, served on the Mayor of Seattle's Innovation Advisory Council, and led the documentation of regional vehicle residency for the annual point-in-time count of unsheltered people from 2017 to 2020.
While at the UCSF BHHI, Graham has worked closed with Dr. Kelly Ray Knight to publish academic articles presenting his doctoral research. In spring 2021, the City of Oakland Office of the Mayor reached out to the UCSF BHHI to better understand their observed increase of Recreational Vehicle (RV) residents during the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the advisement of Dr. Knight, Graham worked as principal investigator (PI) with city officials to develop the COVID-19 Oriented Residents of Oversized Vehicle Assessment (COROVA), conducted in mid-summer 2021. The COROVA study used structured qualitative interviews among residents of oversized vehicles in public parking to better understand their backgrounds, needs and barriers to accessing social services. This study received IRB approval in early summer 2021, will be presented to the Mayor of Oakland in fall 2021, and prepared for publication in 2022.
In his private time, Graham loves camping with his family in the Pacific Northwest, as well as playing ukulele and charango in a folk-punk band. Graham helped organize an outdoor community dinner for a decade in Seattle and regularly assists advocacy work for vehicle resident civil rights in communities across North America. His research and theories were recently featured by the Sun Magazine in a long-form interview with Thacher Schmid. Dr. Pruss has been working closely with the National Homelessness Law Center (NHLC) to organize an inaugural North American Vehicle Residency Summit in fall 2022 and is co-chair of the National Vehicle Residency Legal Forum with NHLC senior attorney Tristia Bauman.