Dr. Henwood is a licensed clinical social worker who has served as an administrator, clinician and researcher for organizations serving adults experiencing homelessness and serious health conditions, including mental illness, physical disease and addiction. He helped start and served as the clinical director for Pathways to Housing, Inc., a Housing First agency in Philadelphia, where he also served as the principal investigator of clinical research that sought to develop more effective models of integrating primary and behavioral health care.
Dr. Henwood received a dissertation-training grant from the National Institute of Mental Health and is a co-investigator of the five-year, NIMH-funded New York Recovery Study of homeless adults with serious mental illness and co-occurring substance abuse. He is also the lead evaluator of a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration grant to expand Housing First services in the state of Vermont.
As an assistant professor at the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, Dr. Henwood will continue his ongoing research agenda on the complex service environment for individuals with serious mental illnesses who have experienced homelessness. He is currently involved in the evaluation of Los Angeles County’s integrated physical and behavioral health care initiative, where his task is to develop a measure of integration that can be used across diverse organizational settings.
New York University: PhD, Social Work 2011
New York University: MSW, Social Work 2004
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee: MA, Philosophy 1999
Swarthmore College, Pennsylvania: BA, Philosophy 1997
Areas of Expertise (3)
Industry Expertise (8)
New Investigator Award, (professional)
Awarded by the National Institute of Mental Health
Media Appearances (5)
Number of homeless counted in Los Angeles County up sharply
U.S. News and World Report
"The numbers are disheartening," said Dr. Ben Henwood, who teaches social work at the University of Southern California. USC researchers oversaw the count for the first time and will study the data.
Henwood said while more volunteers, better demographic surveys and broader outreach among young homeless people improved the overall effort, "it's clear that the numbers themselves have gone up."...
USC partners on countywide homeless count for the first time
“Offering someone his or her own apartment has been revolutionary to date, but if we are offering people apartments in places where they don’t want to live or under conditions that are not tolerable to them, they may decide to say no,” said USC Social Work Assistant Professor Ben Henwood, also the co-author of the book Housing First. “From my standpoint, the trick is figuring out how to allow for personalized care and maximize self-determination while bringing to scale enough options that make that possible.”...
New two-year project looks at needs of L.A.’s chronically homeless
A new two-year project led by Ben Henwood, an assistant professor at the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work and an affiliate faculty member with the USC Edward R. Roybal Institute on Aging, will explore ways to reduce the gap between the needs of L.A.’s chronically homeless and existing housing and support service options.
“Many of the chronic homeless have been disenfranchised and on the streets for some time,” Henwood said. “When the homelessness crisis came about in the 1980s, they were in their 30s. Now, several decades later, the majority of them are 50 or older.”...
Social work academy taps Trojan to lead national effort against homelessness
Is it possible that the social work profession could eliminate the homelessness crisis in our lifetime? From the perspective of Assistant Professor Ben Henwood, homelessness is a solvable problem on a national scale, and social work is uniquely qualified to lead the charge.
Henwood is one of nine professors from universities across the United States whose working paper proposing an end to homelessness was chosen as one of the Grand Challenge initiatives by the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare. The academy then approached Henwood to help lead the national effort and he accepted the challenge...
Tents on campus kick off Homelessness Awareness Week
Besides students, the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work is also leading a national push, along with New York University, to get social work schools across the nation to prioritize homelessness. Professor Ben Henwood, who is steering that effort, called on Trojans on Monday to not just push to end homelessness but to let them know L.A. is their home too.
“The harder part is helping people who are part of our community feel like they belong here,” he said...
Articles & Publications (5)
The harm reduction approach has become a viable framework within the field of addictions, yet there is limited understanding about how this approach is implemented in practice. For people who are homeless and have co-occurring psychiatric and substance use disorders, the Housing First model has shown promising results in employing such an approach. This qualitative study utilizes ethnographic methods to explore case managers' use of harm reduction within Housing First with a specific focus on the consumer-provider relationship. Analysis of observational data and in-depth interviews with providers and consumers revealed how communication between the two regarding the consumer's substance use interacted with the consumer-provider relationship. From these findings emerged a heuristic model of harm reduction practice that highlighted the profound influence of relationship quality on the paths of communication regarding substance use. This study provides valuable insight into how harm reduction is implemented in clinical practice that ultimately has public health implications in terms of more effectively addressing high rates of addiction that contribute to homelessness and health disparities.
The negative effects of life stress can arise from exposure to multiple forms of adversity including childhood sexual and physical abuse, premature deaths of family members, and exposure to chronic stressors such as violent neighborhoods and unsafe workplaces (Pearlin & Skaff, 1996; Seery, Holman, & Silver, 2010). Life stresses have been consistently linked to depression, substance abuse, poor health, and premature mortality, including suicide (Felitti et al., 1998; Gould et al., 1994; Horwitz, Widom, McLaughlin, & White, 2001; Thornicroft, 2011). Amidst the overwhelming evidence of pathology, recent studies have found resilience and posttraumatic growth resulting from some forms of adversity (Seery et al., 2010).
The Housing First (HF) approach for homeless adults with serious mental illness has gained support as an alternative to the mainstream “Treatment First” (TF) approach. In this study, group differences were assessed using qualitative data from 27 HF and 48 TF clients. Dichotomous variables for substance use and substance abuse treatment utilization were created and examined using bivariate and logistic regression analyses. The HF group had significantly lower rates of substance use and substance abuse treatment utilization; they were also significantly less likely to leave their program. Housing First’s positive impact is contrasted with the difficulties Treatment First programs have in retaining clients and helping them avoid substance use and possible relapse.
The new paradigm of recovery has highlighted the importance of positive social relationships, but little is known about their role in recovery among homeless individuals with serious mental illness and comorbid substance abuse. This study used within- and across-case analyses of longitudinal data from qualitative interviews with 41 dually diagnosed individuals entering residential programs to exit homelessness and receive needed services. Thematic findings include (a) “loner talk” and the need for privacy; (b) family ties as “good news, bad news”; (c) when it comes to a partner, other things come first; and (d) in search of positive people. Analyses of change in individual trajectories revealed that stronger social relationships did not coincide exactly with positive outcomes. Although positive life changes were gradual, negative changes could be precipitous. Social relationships were threatened by concentrated disadvantage, that is, a lack of social and economic currency. Findings are discussed with implications for improving services for the most vulnerable individuals who stand to benefit from the era of recovery.
This qualitative study analyzed 72 interviews with 39 formerly homeless psychiatric consumers to develop a grounded theory model of engagement and retention in mental health and substance abuse services. Person-centered themes included severity of mental illness and substance abuse (the latter also conflicting with programmatic abstinence requirements). System-related themes inhibiting service use included program rules and restrictions and a lack of one-on-one therapy. Those promoting service use were acts of kindness by staff, pleasant surroundings, and the promise (or attainment) of independent housing. Implications of these findings are discussed in terms of integrating consumers' opinions about services to enhance treatment engagement and retention.