In Year 2 of the National Homelessness Social Work Initiative, the National Center for Excellence in Homeless Services (NCEHS) selected the University of Southern California School of Social Work (USCSSW) to be one of six Regional Hub Leader Schools.

The USCSSW, one of two regional hubs in California (the other is CSU, Long Beach), is recognized as one of the best for clinical training, with graduates also excelling in policy practice, advocacy, and program administration. The school houses the Research Cluster of Excellence on Homelessness, Housing and Social Environment, which has nurtured multiple partnerships with agencies serving people experiencing homelessness, including those providing shelter, permanent supportive housing, drug treatment, veterans services, and integrated health care. Faculty in the research cluster also serve in pro bono roles in the community as advisors and consultants.  Several faculty from the research cluster have been active in NCEHS activities, including Drs. Suzanne Wenzel, Eric Rice, and Ben Henwood. Doctoral students in the school have also gotten involved. For example, doctoral candidate Robin Petering wrote a guest blog about her experience teaching yoga to homeless youth.

Dr. Ben Henwood, Assistant Professor, has been particularly active in advancing the work of the National Center. He is a national leader in research on Housing First and recently co-authored a book on the subject. Dr. Henwood led the development of the Grand Challenge of Ending Homelessness (GCEH) concept paper, which was adopted by the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare (AASWSW) as one of 12 grand challenges to the social work profession. He now co-leads the implementation of this grand challenge.

As a Regional Hub Leader, the USCSSW aims to: 1) pursue NIH funds for new homelessness research, mentoring, outreach, and homeless service partnerships; 2) advance collaborative homelessness research across schools of social work; 3) create local collaboratives with policymakers and providers; and 4) disseminate homelessness knowledge through conferences and leadership positions to advance data-driven policies and programs. The research cluster provides a laboratory for federal research grant development and advancing international research on homelessness through interdisciplinary networking and events. Efforts also address identifying opportunities to further develop expertise in homelessness across the region and nationally, such as through training grants and conferences.

The USCSSW’s role as a Regional Hub leader has coalesced with Dr. Henwood’s role as the co-lead of the AASWSW GCEH and USC’s own initiative in which the University has taken on homelessness as a “wicked problem”. Recent highlights include:

  • Continued NIH and other funding for research on homelessness:
    • HIV Risk, Drug Use, Social Networks: Homeless Persons Transitioned to Housing, National Institute of Drug Abuse (PI: Wenzel; 1R01DA036345-01A1)
    • Understanding Risk Environment for Youth in Supportive Housing, National Institute of Mental Health (PI: Henwood; 1R01MH110206-01)
    • Peers and Social Media to Promote HIV Testing and Treatment of Homeless Youth, California State Funded (PI: Rice)
    • Addressing Geriatric Syndromes within Permanent Supportive Housing, National Institute on Aging. (PI: Henwood; 1R21AG050009)
  • USC Homelessness Summit: In April, USC launched an initiative aligning the university with the community and local governments in the effort to end homelessness in Los Angeles. This university-wide initiative advances the concept that universities can serve as “anchor institutions” in their communities for important social problems. As part of the USC initiative, the SSW has been selected to consult on the 2017 regional homeless count.
  • Grand Challenge to End Homelessness Enhanced Field-Placement (EFP) Project: This fall the USCSSW launched a pilot project in which a cohort of 15 MSW students were placed in a field practicum designed to educate students on policy and clinical practice to combat homelessness. Students participated in a kick-off event prior to their placement and will meet monthly as a cohort.
  • Survey on Social Work Research focused on homelessness: As part of a NCEHS research workgroup, USCSSW has helped develop a survey to assess what social work research is being conducted on homelessness and how that research addresses a larger research agenda. Data collection will begin this fall.

Like this post?

Check out this one for an overview of USC’s Research Cluster.

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