Mary Cunningham

Mary Cunningham is a Senior Research Associate in the Metropolitan Housing and Communities Center at the Urban Institute, where her research focuses on homelessness, housing, concentrated poverty and efforts to improve family self-sufficiency and overall well-being among low-income families. Ms. Cunningham’s work managing and directing qualitative and quantitative research studies includes developing research designs, survey instruments, in-depth interview guides and statistical and qualitative data analysis. She has expertise in a number of HUD homelessness and assisted housing programs, including Permanent Supportive Housing, Transitional Housing, Emergency Shelter, Housing Choice Vouchers, Family Self-Sufficiency, HOPE VI, and the Moving to Opportunity Demonstration. Ms. Cunningham was a researcher at UI from 1997 to 2005. Prior to her return in 2008, Ms. Cunningham launched and directed the Homeless Research Institute (HRI), the research and education arm of the National Alliance to End Homelessness. While directing the Homelessness Research Institute, Ms. Cunningham researched and wrote extensively on homelessness and poverty. She co-chaired a Research Council on homelessness comprised of nationally recognized academics and policy researchers, and authored numerous reports, including A Research Agenda for Ending Homelessness and Homelessness Counts. Ms. Cunningham has an MPP from Georgetown University. She is currently directing study that examines the impact of housing vouchers on child welfare involvement and homelessness and writing a book on homelessness.


What child welfare agencies can learn from the department of Veterans Affairs in the race to end homelessness

By Sarah Gillespie and Mary Cunningham  ::  May 21st, 2014

    These days, most of the news from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) isn’t anything to brag about. But amid reports that the hospital system has failed to provide timely care, the VA is also making news as an example of how to accelerate the nation’s race to end homelessness among veterans by […]

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Five ways to reach homeless youth

By Mike Pergamit and Mary Cunningham  ::  January 17th, 2014

In a few weeks, communities around the country will conduct their annual Point-in-Time (PIT) counts of homeless individuals. These counts provide crucial data to assist communities with the development of strategies and services, but past experience indicates these counts do a poor job of estimating the number of youth experiencing homelessness. Making sure homeless youth […]

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1.5 million veterans are paying too much for rent. Without an investment in affordable housing, we won’t end veteran homelessness.

By Mary Cunningham  ::  January 16th, 2014

Phoenix, Arizona recently announced that it has ended homelessness among chronically homeless veterans. This milestone is significant for a number of reasons. For one, it shows that evidence-based policy works. Through Housing First and the Department of Housing and Urban Development Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH), Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary General Eric Shinseki and HUD […]

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Welcoming returning soldiers home -- and in off the streets

By Mary Cunningham and Jennifer Biess  ::  November 11th, 2013

    This Veterans Day, as the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) helps former servicemembers deal with the enduring aftereffects of war, there is at least one aspect of soldier reintegration into civilian life that has improved markedly in recent decades: our system for ensuring veterans are adequately housed. By contrast with the early […]

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Looking for homeless youth? Try the mall, schools, a pizzeria, or a friend's couch

By Abigail Baum and Mary Cunningham  ::  July 30th, 2013

Ziggy was kicked out of her house by her brothers when she was 14, because she was a lesbian.  She tried every morning to get up and continue to attend school, even though for weeks at time, she didn’t know where she would sleep each night. There are many more youth who, like Ziggy, experience […]

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Yes, Mayor Gray, It’s time for a Prosperity Dividend for the District

By Mary Cunningham  ::  February 14th, 2013

It is difficult to reconcile the recent reports of 600 children living in improvised shelters in abandoned DC General Hospital buildings with the District’s year-end surplus of $400 million.  As someone who has studied the lack of affordable housing in DC for more than a decade, I agree with Mayor Gray: it’s time to pay […]

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The Veterans Homelessness Numbers Are Down: What’s Next?

By Mary Cunningham  ::  December 12th, 2012

On Monday, the Obama Administration announced a 7.2 percent decline in homelessness among veterans (from 2011 to 2012). Can the administration meet its goal of ending homelessness among veterans by 2015? Yes. But they’ll need to significantly boost their efforts. Here are five things the administration can do to achieve their goal: Launch an initiative […]

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LA’s housing voucher decision could reduce recidivism among returning prisoners

By Mary Cunningham  ::  May 16th, 2012

  Recently the Los Angeles Times editorial board supported the Los Angeles Housing Authority’s decision to allow people leaving prison to qualify for a small pool of vouchers set aside for homeless people. Let me second that idea. I study homelessness and it’s well known in my field that prison and other correctional facilities are so-called […]

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Are families facing foreclosure becoming homeless?

By Mary Cunningham  ::  April 19th, 2012

  The most frequent question that comes across my desk is whether households facing foreclosure are becoming homeless. This is a tough question. The answer is that a few families may be trickling into homeless shelters, but probably not immediately after foreclosure, and not on a wide scale. Some limited evidence from DC shows this […]

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