Mary Cunningham is codirector of the Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy 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. She has expertise in a number of US Department of Housing and Urban Development 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. She currently directs studies examining the impact of housing vouchers on child welfare involvement, the impact of supportive housing on high-need families in the child welfare system, and a homeless prevention program for at-risk veterans.
From 2005 to 2008, Cunningham launched and directed the Homeless Research Institute (HRI), the research and education arm of the National Alliance to End Homelessness. While directing HRI, she cochaired a research council on homelessness comprising nationally recognized academics and policy researchers; she also authored numerous reports, including A Research Agenda for Ending Homelessness and Homelessness Counts.