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Suzanne Wenzel

Richard M. and Ann L. Thor Professor in Urban Social Development and Associate Dean for Research

Interdisciplinary researcher focusing on health and well-being of marginalized populations, particularly persons who have experienced homelessness.

Media Contact
Suzanne Wenzel
Email:  swenzel@usc.edu
Phone:  +1 213.740.0819
Rank:  Tenure Track Faculty

Suzanne Wenzel

Richard M. and Ann L. Thor Professor in Urban Social Development and Associate Dean for Research

Interdisciplinary researcher focusing on health and well-being of marginalized populations, particularly persons who have experienced homelessness.

Media Contact


Suzanne Wenzel has devoted much of her career to interdisciplinary research that seeks to understand and improve the health and well-being of marginalized populations, particularly individuals with current or prior experiences of homelessness in urban communities.
Professor Wenzel has served as the principal investigator on ten grants from the National Institutes of Health (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institute of Mental Health, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development), and has been an investigator and collaborator on multiple other research projects and initiatives sponsored by federal, state and local entities.
Her research involving persons experiencing homelessness has utilized multi-method approaches in investigations of the social ecological context of service access and risks for HIV/AIDS, substance misuse, and other behavioral health issues among women*, men*, and transition age youth; associations among partner violence, substance use, mental health, and HIV/AIDS risk among women*; and community-engaged development and adaption of evidence-based programming to address HIV risk and trauma symptoms among women*.  Among persons experiencing long-term homelessness and physical and behavioral health challenges, she has also investigated how health, service utilization, social relationships, and other indicators of life quality and well-being change over time as persons transition to and live in apartments of their own.  In other NIH-sponsored research, Wenzel has investigated quality of treatment for substance misuse in therapeutic communities for adolescents and adults, and referral linkages between drug treatment courts and community-based providers of behavioral health and other services.  In 2020, she conducted an evaluation of Los Angeles County’s efforts to expand and enhance services provided through permanent supportive housing.
Professor Wenzel served as a consultant on homelessness and housing for the White House Office of National HIV/AIDS Policy during the Obama administration, has served on the research council of the National Alliance to End Homelessness, and participated in a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine initiative to evaluate evidence pertaining to permanent supportive housing and health outcomes.  She co-organized and presented in two national meetings (Harvard and USC) focused on needs of women experiencing homelessness,  organized a Los Angeles County-wide forum at USC on the topic of integrated health care and housing, and serves on the steering committee of the USC Homelessness Policy Research Institute.
She joined the USC Dworak-Peck School of Social Work in 2009.  Prior to her appointment as a tenured professor at USC, she was a senior behavioral scientist at the RAND Corporation in Santa Monica, California, where she also directed research quality assurance for the RAND Health program.
Professor Wenzel teaches Science of Social Work in the MSW program and Social Work Research Methods in the PhD program. Lending expertise in behavioral health, she participates in a Social Work Education Capacity Expansion (SWECE) Grant from the Department of Health Care Access and Information (HCAI), State of California.
* persons self-identified
To reference the work of Suzanne Wenzel online, we ask that you directly quote their work where possible and attribute it to "Suzanne Wenzel, a faculty at the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work” (LINK: https://dworakpeck.usc.edu)



Rutgers/Princeton Program in Mental Health Research and UCLA Department of Sociology

Postdoctoral Fellowship

University of Texas at Austin


Texas State University


Area of Expertise

  • Homelessness and permanent supportive housing
  • Homelessness among persons identifying as women
  • Behavioral health and treatment services
  • Substance use and treatment
  • Sexual risk behavior and HIV risk prevention
  • Victimization and trauma among women
  • HIV and AIDS

Industry Experience

  • Research
  • Leadership
  • Management
  • Program Development
  • Education/Learning
  • Health Care - Services
  • Health Care - Facilities
  • Health and Wellness
  • Health Care - Providers
  • Public Policy

Research Interest

Behavioral Health Health HIV/AIDS Homelessness Substance Abuse


Fellow, American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare

Fellow, Association for Psychological Science

Fellow, Western Psychological Association

Higher Education Resource Services Leadership Institute Award

Sterling C. Franklin Award for Distinguished USC Social Work Faculty

Articles & Publications

Wenzel, S. & LaMotte-Kerr, W. (2023).  Life meaning in a social context among formerly homeless residents of permanent supportive housing. Journal of Social Distress and Homelessness, 32(1), 34-41, doi: 10.1080/10530789.2021.1961989

Perez Jolles, M., Rivera, D., Jacobs, G., Thomas, K., Schneiderman, J., & Wenzel, S. (2021). Views on health activation and support services among formerly homeless adults living in permanent supportive housing in the United States. Health and Social Care in the Community. https://doi.org/10.1111/hsc.13384

Harris, T., Semborski, S., Rhoades, H., & Wenzel, S.  (2021).  Service utilization changes in the transition to permanent supportive housing:  The role of the housing environment and case management. Health and Social Care in the Community. doi: 10.1111/hsc.13448

Semborski, S., Rhoades, H., Henwood, B., Rice, E., & Wenzel, S.  (2020).  Gender differences in residents’ intention to leave permanent supportive housing.  Journal of the Society for Social Work & Research, 11(4), 529-544, doi: 10.1086/712505  

La Motte-Kerr, W., Henwood, B., Rhoades, H., Rice, E., & Wenzel, S.  (2020).  Exploring the association of community integration with mental health among formerly homeless individuals living in permanent supportive housing. American Journal of Community Psychology. DOI 10.1002/ajcp.12459

Cox, R., Lahey, J., Rhoades, H., Henwood, B., & Wenzel, S. (2020). Does the timing of incarceration impact the timing and duration of homelessness? Evidence from the “Transitions to Housing Study.” Justice Quarterly. DOI:10.1080/07418825.2019.1709883

Wenzel, S.L., Rhoades, H., LaMotte-Kerr, W., & Duan, L. (2019).  Everyday discrimination among formerly homeless persons in permanent supportive housing.  Journal of Social Distress and Homelessness, DOI: 10.1080/10530789.2019.1630959

Rhoades, H., Wenzel, S. L., & Henwood, B. F. (2019). Changes in self-rated physical health after moving into permanent supportive housing. American Journal of Health Promotion, 33(7), 1073-1076.  DOI: 10.1177/0890117119849004

Wenzel, S.L., Rhoades, H., La Motte-Kerr, W., Duan, L., Harris, T., Rice, E., & Henwood, B.F. (2019)  Do HIV risk and prevention behaviors change over time among adults in permanent supportive housing?. AIDS Care. 31 (9), 1172-1177.   DOI: 10.1080/09540121.2019.1576849

Rhoades, H., Wenzel, S., Winetrobe, H., Ramirez, M., Wu, S., Carranza, A., Caraballo Jones, M. (2019). A text messaging-based intervention to increase physical activity among persons living in permanent supportive housing: Feasibility and acceptability findings from a pilot study. Digital Health. DOI: 10.1177/2055207619832438

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (2018). Permanent supportive housing:  Evaluating the evidence for improving health outcomes among people experiencing chronic homelessness. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/25133

Research Grants

HIV Risk, Drug Use, Social Networks: Homeless Persons Transitioned to Housing
National Institute on Drug Abuse $2,668,735

As local, state, and federal officials continue to invest in permanent supportive housing to address issues of chronic homelessness, mental health, and substance use, research is needed to explore how the transition to housing affects homeless individuals. Using a socioecological model and a longitudinal design, this study will examine HIV risk and prevention behaviors in a sample of chronically homeless, predominately African American men and women as they transition to housing. Evidence from a pilot project has suggested that the transition process may increase rather than decrease certain risk behaviors over time. The specific aims of the study are to examine changes in those risk behaviors, how the social networks of housed individuals change over time, and how the transition to permanent supportive housing affects drug use and mental health symptoms. The research team also plans to assess whether and how housing providers promote HIV prevention and will use findings to inform specific strategies to reduce the risk of HIV transmission. Interviews will be conducted with approximately 405 individuals receiving housing before the transition and at 3, 6, and 12 months after entering housing. Researchers will also interview supervisory employees and conduct focus groups with frontline staff members of housing providers.

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