Housing and Belonging

Bringing Oregonians together to talk about home and housing in our communities

A photo of a collection of housing of various sizes made from wooden blocks.

This summer, Oregon Humanities is partnering with local organizations across the state to host community conversations about housing and belonging. These conversations are opportunities for people to reflect on ideas and experiences of home and housing across differences of background and belief.

Housing and homelessness is a visible and divisive issue in local media, in politics, and across different communities within our state. According to the state’s housing finance agency, Oregon has 140,000 fewer homes than it needs for its current population. Around 18,000 people are currently experiencing homelessness in Oregon. Many of us were experiencing housing instability and economic uncertainty even during the “boom” times before the current crisis.

These conversations will explore common assumptions and perspectives about the experience of houselessness/homelessness and seek to answer the question, How do we decide who “belongs” in our community? The discussions will be led by facilitators trained by Oregon Humanities. Participants will explore why they think what they do, share stories, build trust, and make stronger connections and commitments to the issues that affect their communities.

We are seeking partners to host these conversations, including community organizations, libraries, small and large nonprofits, universities, community colleges, government agencies, corporations, and others. Hosts are responsible for providing a space for the conversation (virtual or physical) and promoting the event to their communities. The program is offered on a pay-what-you-will basis, from nothing up to $600.

If you’d like to host a conversation, please complete this form.

Please email Paul Susi at housing@oregonhumanities.org with questions.


Meet Our Facilitators

Jacquelle Cherise Davis is an actor, fight and intimacy choreographer, and social services professional. She was born and raised in Portland. Jacquelle operates between the liminal spaces of art and community. She was an ensemble member for Theatre Vertigo and has worked as a shelter advocate, case manager, and housing specialist for the houseless community. She is also the program director for From The Ground UP: A Research And Development Center for New Art. Her passion is community and creating connections. Jacquelle currently works as an engagement coordinator for the Menlo Park Safe Rest Village. She believes in true accessibility, that housing is a human right, and that art saves lives. 

Yimei Shao is a community organizer, coalition-builder, and street librarian with Street Books, a bicycle-powered library for folks living outside. Formally trained in curriculum development and critical education studies, Yimei has served as an educator in NYC high schools and various Portland community workshops. A diasporic person 3,000 miles from childhood home and 6,000 miles from ancestral home, Yimei is both neither-here-nor-there and right-here-right-now, at home in Portland.

Paul Susi is a community activist, educator, and performing artist based in Portland, Oregon. From 2015 to 2020, Paul worked as a lead shelter host, shift supervisor, and ultimately manager for six successive Transition Projects shelters, specializing in opening and establishing best practices for new emergency homeless shelters throughout the Portland area. He has also been executive director of a theater company and a site leader for outdoor school. Paul has led Oregon Humanities Conversation Project programs on education and housing, and he is currently preparing to perform An Iliad in prisons and community centers around Oregon in the fall of 2023. 

Julia Waters grew up in Portland in a household filled with creative pursuits. As a writer, musician, astrologer, nature educator, facilitator, and organizer of a mutual aid project getting farm fresh meals to folx living outside, the fabric of Julia’s landscape of being is dynamic and variable, yet always steeped in human connection. When not facilitating conversations for Oregon Humanities, you might find Julia searching for a better lyric to their newest song, contemplating Saturnian archetypes, or perched on a log at their favorite pond.

Reeva Wortel is a multidisciplinary contemporary artist, choreographer, director and teaching artist who creates narrative portrait-based projects that combine interviews, social commentary, performance, and large-scale installation. Driven by a commitment to develop the technique of portraiture beyond its traditional limits, Wortel has worked in communities as an artist, activist, social worker, and teaching artist, honing a technique to narrate the individual stories of our time through her intimate portraiture work. Wortel’s process explores deep questions about human complexity and how art can reimagine the communities we live in toward a more just and equitable world.


Belonging, Conversation Project, Housing


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Also in The Conversation Project

Conversation Project Leaders Wanted

What People Are Saying about the Conversation Project

Resources for Conversation Project Hosts

Toolkits and Discussion Guides

Housing and Belonging