Suzanne Wenzel

Contact Information
University Park
Department of Study 
Adults and Healthy Aging
Research Interest 
Behavioral Health
Substance Abuse
Social Networks
Richard M. and Ann L. Thor Professor in Urban Social Development
PhD, University of Texas at Austin, 1990
BA, Texas State University, San Marcos, 1985

SUZANNE WENZEL has devoted much of her career to interdisciplinary research that seeks to understand and address health-related needs of vulnerable populations, particularly individuals experiencing homelessness in urban communities.

Wenzel has served as the principal investigator on ten grants from the National Institutes of Health. Funding for these projects from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Institute on Drug Abuse has totaled more than $15 million. Her research involving homeless persons has included an investigation of the social context of risk for substance use and HIV/AIDS among homeless men, women and youth; examination of the relationship of trauma to substance use and HIV/AIDS risk among women; and adaption of evidence-based programs to address HIV risk, victimization by violence, and post-traumatic stress among women. She is investigating the process of transitioning to permanent supportive housing among individuals experiencing chronic homelessness, and associated changes in personal relationships, behavioral health and risks, health service use, and quality of life. She organized a Los Angeles County-wide forum on the topic of integrated care and housing for homeless persons, and has participated in several regional and national efforts to prevent and end homelessness. Wenzel has also conducted research on substance abuse treatment quality, and organizational linkages among treatment courts for drug-involved offenders and community-based providers of behavioral health services.

After completing her doctoral studies in community psychology, Wenzel was awarded a National Institute of Mental Health post-doctoral fellowship in the Rutgers/Princeton program in mental health research. Prior to her appointment at USC in 2009, she was a senior behavioral scientist at the RAND Corporation in Santa Monica, Calif., and was responsible for research quality assurance in the RAND Health program.

Wenzel serves as director of the Research Cluster of Excellence on Homelessness, Housing and Social Environment; inaugural chair of the Department of Adults and Healthy Aging; and chair of the Research Council. She is an elected fellow in the Association for Psychological Science and Western Psychological Association, and is on the Research Council of the National Alliance to End Homelessness. She has published 95 peer-reviewed journal articles, has performed peer review services for more than 40 different scholarly journals, has served on national and international research review panels, and is a standing member of a National Institutes of Health study section.

As a graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin, Dr. Suzanne Wenzel watched in shock as participants in a study of domestic violence were forced, moments after leaving her research office, to hand over their $20 cash incentive to the men who likely abused them. Wenzel remembers the experience as “heartbreaking but enlightening,” her first brush with true need and a personal entrée into the study of vulnerable populations.

Wenzel spent much of the next two decades at the RAND Corporation, where she received millions of dollars in grant funding from the National Institutes of Health to study the needs of disadvantaged people. She focused her research on understanding homelessness—now her recognized area of expertise—to pioneer new, evidence-based intervention strategies. To that end, she conducted one of the first probability surveys of homeless women that documented their levels of need in a number of areas of health. She discovered more than 60 percent had been either physically or sexually victimized during their lifetime, a possible cause of physical and behavioral health problems later in life.

Wenzel joined the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work in 2009, where she has continued her research on homeless populations and mentored students with similar interests. With her background in community psychology, Wenzel is able to use theories of behavior to explore clinical problems as products of the environment. More recent work includes studies on homeless men living in the Skid Row area of Los Angeles, as well as a spin-off study on homeless veterans. She has found that veterans who have some access to services on Skid Row are more likely to be tested for HIV but are also more likely to engage in HIV-risky behavior. This discrepancy points to a serious gap in services, Wenzel says, as these men are getting the testing they need but are not being educated on how to keep themselves and their partners safe.

Wenzel has watched with satisfaction as the old stereotype of the homeless man, a “bum screaming obscenities from the street corner,” is slowly being replaced with a more complex, accurate picture. As a result, she has been able to focus on the structural problems with society that are responsible for these social ills. The economic recessions of the past decades have shown that something as impersonal as the economy can cause homelessness and that the primary solution to this widespread problem also might be the most basic: providing housing.

Wenzel frequently encounters contrary proof to the common notion among clinicians that homeless men and women do not want to participate in treatment interventions. “It’s absolutely a myth that people want to be homeless,” she says. “They just need to find the right way out.” Wenzel spearheads the research core on homelessness, an opportunity for both students and faculty to investigate those strategies and expand knowledge of homeless populations.

Awards and Distinction
University of Southern California, Higher Education Resource Services (HERS) Leadership Institute Awardee (Wellesley College) (2015-2016)
Sterling C. Franklin Award for Distinguished USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work Faculty, “… for excellence in research and scholarship; service to the university, the school, and the community; and accessibility to students.”
Fellow, Western Psychological Association, (2010)
Fellow, Association for Psychological Science, elected, “…for sustained outstanding contributions to the science of psychology.” (2008)
RAND Corporation President’s Award for Research, “…for her far-reaching research on the problems of substance abuse, health care for indigent persons, and homelessness, as well as her creative efforts to develop a strong funding base for research on domestic violence.” (2007)
More awards
Selected Publications

Yamada, A.M., & Wenzel, S.L. (2016). Health Care for Los Angeles Communities: Integrating Health, Mental Health, Substance Use and Housing Services. Los Angeles, CA: University of Southern California, Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work.

Kriegel, L., Hsu, H., & Wenzel, S.L. (in press). Social networks: A hypothesized mediator in the association between incarceration and risk behaviors among women with histories of homelessness. Journal of the Society for Social Work and Research.

Tucker, J.S., Ober, A., Ryan, G., Golinelli, D., Ewing, E., & Wenzel S.L. (2014). To use or not to use: A stage-based approach to understanding condom use among homeless youth. AIDS Care, 26(5), 567-573.

Guerrero, E., Henwood, B., & Wenzel, S.L. (2014). Service integration to reduce homelessness in Los Angeles County: Multiple stakeholder perspectives. Human Services Organization Management, Leadership & Governance, 38(1), 44-54.

Petering, R., Wenzel, S.L., & Winetrobe, H.M. (2014). Systematic review of intimate partner violence prevention programs and applicability to homeless youth. Journal of the Society for  Social Work and Research, 5(1), 107-135.

Cederbaum, J., Wenzel, S.L., Gilbert, M.L., & Chereji, E. (2013). HIV risk reduction needs of homeless women in Los Angeles. Women’s Health Issues, 23(3), 167-172.

Henwood, B., Hsu, H., Dent, D., Winetrobe, H., Carranza, A. & Wenzel, S.L. (2013). Transitioning from homelessness: A “fresh-start” event. Journal of the Society for Social Work and Research, 4(1), 47-57.

Wenzel, S.L., Rhoades, H., Golinelli, D., Kennedy, D.P., Zhou, A. & Ewing, B. (2012). HIV risk behavior and access to services: What predicts HIV testing among heterosexually-active homeless men?. AIDS Education and Prevention, 24(3), 270-279.

Wenzel, S.L., Hsu, H., Zhou, A. & Tucker, J.S. (2012). Are social network correlates of heavy drinking similar among Black homeless youth and White homeless youth. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 73(6), 885-889.

Tucker, J.S., Sussell, J., Golinelli, D., Zhou, A., Kennedy, D. & Wenzel, S.L. (2012). Understanding pregnancy-related attitudes and behaviors: A mixed method study of homeless youth. Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 44(4): 252–261.

Tucker, J.S., Hu, J., Golinelli, D., Kennedy, D.P. & Wenzel, S.L. (2012). Social networks and individual predictors of sexual risk behavior among homeless young MSM. Journal of Adolescent Health, Online First.

Kennedy, D.P., Brown, R., Wenzel, S.L. & Tucker, J.S. (2012). Masculinity and sexual risk among homeless men in Los Angeles. Psychology of Men and Masculinity.

Green, H.D., Tucker, J.S., Wenzel, S.L. & Golinelli, D. (2012). Association of childhood emotional, physical, and sexual abuse with the structure and content of homeless women's social networks. Child Abuse and Neglect, 36(1), 21-31.

Wenzel, S.L., Rhoades, H., Hsu, H., Golinelli, G., Tucker, J.S., Kennedy, D.P. & Ewing, B. (2011). Behavioral health and social normative influence: Correlates of concurrent sexual partnering among heterosexually active homeless men. AIDS and Behavior, Online First.

Tucker, J.S., Ryan, G., Golinelli, D., Munjas, B. & Wenzel, S.L. (2011). Substance use and other risk factors for unprotected sex: Results from an event-based study of homeless youth. AIDS and Behavior, 16(6), 1699-1707.

Wenzel, S.L., Holloway, I., Golinelli, D., Bowman, R. & Tucker, J. (2011). Social networks of homeless youth in emerging adulthood. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 41(5), 561-571.

Brown, R., Kennedy, D., Tucker, J., Ryan, G. & Wenzel, S.L. (2011). Sex and relationships on the street: How homeless men judge partner risk on Skid Row. AIDS and Behavior, 16(3), 774-784.

Martino, S., Tucker, J.S., Wenzel, S.L., Ryan, G., Golinelli, D. & Munjas, B. (2011). Increased substance use and risky sexual behavior among migratory homeless youth: Exploring the role of social network composition. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 40(12), 1634-1648.

Rhoades, H., Wenzel, S.L., Golinelli, D., Tucker, J., Kennedy, D., Green, H. & Zhou, A. (2011). The social context of homeless men’s substance use.Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 118(2-3), 320-325.

Tucker, J.S., Wenzel, S.L., Golinelli, D., Zhou, A. & Green, H.D. (2011). Predictors of substance abuse treatment need and receipt among homeless women. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 40, 287-294.

Wenzel, S.L., Tucker, J.S., Golinelli, D., Green, H.D. & Zhou, A. (2010). Personal network correlates of alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana use among homeless youth. Drug and Alcohol Dependence , 112, 140-149.

Tucker, J.S., Wenzel, S.L., Golinelli, D., Ryan, G., Zhou, A., Beckman, R., Kennedy, D.P. & Green, H.D. (2010). Is substance use a barrier to protected sex among homeless women?: Results from between- and within-subjects event analyses. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 71(1), 86-94.

Kennedy, D.P., Wenzel, S.L., Tucker, J.S., Green, H.D., Golinelli, D., Ryan, G., Beckman, R. & Zhou, A. (2010). Unprotected sex of homeless women living in Los Angeles County: An investigation of the multiple levels of ris.AIDS and Behavior, 14(4), 960-973.

Wenzel, S.L., Unknown, S.L., D’Amico, E., Barnes, D. & Gilbert, M.L. (2009). A pilot of a tripartite prevention program for homeless young women in the transition to adulthood. Women's Health Issues, 19(3), 193-201.

D’Amico, E.J., Barnes, D., Gilbert, M.L., Ryan, G. & Wenzel, S.L. (2009). Developing a tripartite prevention program for impoverished young women transitioning to adulthood: Addressing substance use, HIV risk, and victimization by intimate partners. Journal of Prevention and Intervention in the Community, 37(2), 112-128.

Tucker, J.S., Kennedy, D., Ryan, G., Wenzel, S.L., Golinelli, D. & Zazzali, J. (2009). Homeless women’s personal network: Implications for understanding risk behavior. Human Organization, 68(2), 128-140.

Golinelli, D., Longshore, D. & Wenzel, S.L. (2009). Substance use and intimate partner violence: Clarifying the relevance of women’s use and partners’ use. Journal of Behavioral Health Services & Research, 36(2), 199-211.

Wenzel, S.L., Unknown, S.L., Green, H.D., Tucker, J.S., Golinelli, D., Kennedy, D.P., Ryan, G. & Zhou, A. (2009). The social context of homeless women’s alcohol and drug use. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 105(1-2), 16-23.

Ryan, G., Stern, S.A., Hilton, L., Tucker, J.S., Kennedy, D.P., Golinelli, D. & Wenzel, S.L. (2009). When, where, why and with whom homeless women engage in risky sexual behaviors: A framework for understanding complex decision-making processes. Sex Roles, Online First.

Mandell, W., Edelen, M.O., Wenzel, S.L., Dahl, J. & Ebener, P. (2008). Do dimensions of TC treatment predict retention and outcomes?. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 35(3), 223-231.

Edelen, M.O., Miles, J.N., Osilla, K.C. & Wenzel, S.L. (2008). Further validity evidence for the dimensions of change in Therapeutic Community Treatment Instrument. American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 34(3), 285-292.

Miles, J., Mandell, W. & Wenzel, S.L. (2008). The relationship between the dimensions of change instrument and retention in therapeutic community treatment: The moderating influence of time in treatment. The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 34(6), 667-672.

Chan, K.S., Wenzel, S.L., Mandell, W., Orlando, M. & Ebener, P. (2007). Are prisoner characteristics associated with therapeutic community treatment process?. American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 33(2), 267-279.

Paddock, S.M., Edelen, M.O., Wenzel, S.L., Ebener, P., Mandell, W. & Dahl, J. (2007). Measuring changes in client-level treatment process in the therapeutic community with the Dimensions of Change Instrument. American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 33(4), 537-546.

McNeese-Smith, D., Nyamathi, A., Longshore, D., Wickman, M., Robertson, S., Obert, J., McCann, M., Wells, K. & Wenzel, S.L. (2007). Processes and outcomes of substance abuse treatment in two programs among clients insured under managed care. American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse(33), 439-446.

Tucker, J.S., Elliott, M.N., Wenzel, S.L. & Hambarsoomian, K. (2007). Relationship commitment and its implications for unprotected sex among impoverished women living in shelters and low-income housing in Los Angeles County. Health Psychology, 26(5), 644-649.

Wenzel, S.L., Unknown, S.L., Tucker, J.S., Elliott, M.N. & Hambarsoomian, K. (2007). Sexual risk among impoverished women: Understanding the role of housing status. AIDS and Behavior (9), S9-S20.

Edelen, M.O., Tucker, J.S., Wenzel, S.L., Paddock, S., Ebener, P.A., Dahl, J. & Mandell, W. (2007). Treatment process in the therapeutic community: Associations with retention and outcomes among adolescent residential clients.Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 32(4), 415-421.

Paddock, S., Orlando, M., Wenzel, S.L., Ebener, P. & Mandell, W. (2007). Pattern mixture models for addressing non-ignorable nonresponse in longitudinal substance abuse treatment studies. RAND Report WR-441-HLTH. Santa Monica: RAND.

Tucker, J.S., Wenzel, S.L., Elliott, M.N. & Hambarsoomian, K. (2006). Predictors of unprotected sex with non-cohabitating primary partners among sheltered and low-income housed women in Los Angeles County. Journal of Health Psychology, 11(5), 697-710.

Wenzel, S.L., Elliott, M.N., Golinelli, D., Hambarsoomian, K. & Perlman, J. (2006). Sampling with field burden constraints: An application to sheltered homeless and low income housed women. Field Methods (18), 43-58.

Orlando, M., Wenzel, S.L., Ebener, P., Edwards, M.C., Mandell, W. & Becker, K. (2006). The Dimensions of Change in Therapeutic Community Treatment Instrument. Psychological Assessment, 18(1), 118-122.

Wenzel, S.L., Tucker, J.S., Hambarsoomian, K. & Elliott, M.N. (2006). Toward a more comprehensive understanding of violence against impoverished women. Journal of Adolescent Health, 38(5), 536-543.

Wenzel, S.L., Ebener, P., Watkins, K., Hunter, S., Gilmore, J., Griffin, B., Paddock, S. & Tu, W. (2006). A Collaboration Between Researchers and Practitioners to Improve Care for Co-Occurring Mental Health Disorders in Outpatient Substance Abuse Treatment. RAND Report WR-328. Santa Monica, CA: RAND.

Wenzel, S.L. (2006 June). Helping homeless women.: Washington Post.

Tucker, J.S., D'Amico, E.J., Wenzel, S.L., Golinelli, D., Elliott, M.N. & Williamson, S. (2005). A prospective study of risk and protective factors for substance use among women living in temporary shelters in Los Angeles County. Drug and Alcohol Dependence (80), 35-43.

Tucker, J.S., Wenzel, S.L., Straus, J., Ryan, G.W., Golinelli, D. & Elliott, M.N. (2005). Experiencing interpersonal violence: Perspectives of sexually active, substance-using women living in shelters and low-income housing.Violence Against Women, 11, 1319-1340.

Hunter, S., Watkins, K., Wenzel, S.L., Gilmore, J., Sheehe, J. & Griffin, B. (2005). Training substance abuse treatment staff to care for co-occurring disorders. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment (28), 239-245.

Rayburn, N.R., Wenzel, S.L., Elliott, M.N., Hambarsoomian, K., Marshall, G.N. & Tucker, J.S. (2005). Trauma, depression, coping, and mental health service seeking among impoverished women. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology , 73(4), 667-677.

Wenzel, S.L. & Tucker, J.S. (2005). Re-emphasizing the context of women’s risk for HIV/AIDS in the United States. Women's Health Issues. (pp. 154-156).

Wenzel, S.L., Ebener, P., Hunter, S., Watkins, K. & Gilmore, J. (2005). Research-practice partners assess their first joint project. NIDA: Science and Practice Perspectives. (pp. 38-45).

Wenzel, S.L., Longshore, D., Turner, S. & Ridgely, M.S. (2004). Drug Courts: A bridge between criminal justice and health services. In Stojkovic, S., Klofas, J., Kalinich, D (Eds.) The Administration and Management of Criminal Justice Organizations: A book of readings. Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press, Inc.

Wenzel, S.L., Turner, S. & Ridgely, M.S. (2004). Collaborations between drug courts and service providers: Characteristics and challenges. Journal of Criminal Justice, 32(3), 253-263.

Chan, K., Wenzel, S.L., Orlando, M., Montagnet, C., Mandell, W., Becker, K. & Ebener, P. (2004). How important are client characteristics to understanding treatment process in the therapeutic community?. American Journal of Alcohol and Drug Abuse, 30(4), 867-887.

Tucker, J.S., Wenzel, S.L., Elliott, M.N., Marshall, G.N. & Williamson, S. (2004). Interpersonal violence, substance use, and HIV-related behavior and cognitions: A prospective study of impoverished women in Los Angeles County. AIDS and Behavior, 8(4), 463-474.

Wenzel, S.L., Tucker, J.S., Elliott, M.N., Marshall, G.N. & Williamson, S.L. (2004). Physical violence against impoverished women: A longitudinal analysis of risk and protective factors. Women's Health Issues, 14(5), 144-154.

Watkins, K.E., Hunter, S., Wenzel, S.L., Tu, W., Paddock, S., Griffin, B. & Ebener, P. (2004). Prevalence and characteristics of clients with co-occurring disorders in outpatient substance abuse treatment. American Journal of Alcohol and Drug Abuse, 30(4), 749-764.

Wenzel, S.L., Tucker, J., Elliott, M., Hambarsoomian, K., Perlman, J., Becker, K., Kollross, C. & Golinelli, D. (2004). Prevalence and co-occurrence of violence, substance use and disorder, and HIV risk behavior: A comparison of sheltered vs. low-income housed women in Los Angeles County.Preventive Medicine, 39(3), 617-624.

Tucker, J.S., Wenzel, S.L., Elliott, M.N., Hambarsoomian, K. & Golinelli, D. (2003). Patterns and correlates of HIV testing among sheltered and low-income housed women. Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, 34(4), 415-422.

Elliott, M.N., Golinelli, D., Hambarsoomians, K., Perlman, J., Becker, K., Anderson, K.G., Kollross, C. & Wenzel, S.L. (2003). Sampling with field burden constraints: An application to sheltered homeless and low-income housed women. RAND Report DRU-3057-NIDA. Santa Monica, CA: RAND.

Herndon, B., Asch, S., Kilbourne, A., Wang, M., Lee, M., Wenzel, S.L., Andersen, R. & Gelberg, L. (2003). Prevalence and predictors of HIV testing among a probability sample of homeless women in Los Angeles County.Public Health Reports (118), 261-269.

Turner, S., Longshore, D., Wenzel, S.L., Deschenes, E., Greenwood, P., Fain, T., Harrell, A., Morral, A., Taxman, F., Iguchi, M., Greene, J. & McBride, D. (2002). A decade of drug treatment court research. Substance Use and Misuse, 37(12-13), 1489-1529.

Bird, C.E., Jinnett, K.J., Burnam, M.A., Koegel, P., Sullivan, G., Wenzel, S.L., Ridgely, S., Morton, S.C. & Miu, A. (2002). Predictors of contact with public service sectors among homeless adults with and without alcohol and drug disorders. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 63(6), 716-725.

Luck, J., Andersen, R., Wenzel, S.L., Arangua, L., Wood, D. & Gelberg, L. (2002). Providers of primary care to homeless women in Los Angeles County.The Journal of Ambulatory Care Management, 25(2), 53-67.

Kilbourne, A., Herndon, B., Andersen, R., Wenzel, S.L. & Gelberg, L. (2002). Psychiatric symptoms, health services, and HIV risk factors among homeless women. Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, 13(1), 49-65.