The USC School of Social Work has received a gift of $250,000 to establish a fund to encourage the incubation of new strategies and solutions to housing affordability and access in Los Angeles and other urban areas.
The funding will endow The Watt Family Innovation Fund for Urban Social Development, driving the exploration of new and creative theories that can be developed and tested before submitting them for additional grant funding. This research laboratory model is expected to dramatically increase the success of these grant applications, exponentially leveraging the resources of the Watt family endowment.
J. Scott Watt ’68 said that his family, which owns Watt Companies, a diversified real estate development and building company that has built new homes for more than 100,000 families, has been dedicated to finding solutions to housing access for decades. Watt, chair of the School of Social Work’s Board of Councilors, has previously provided support for homelessness research at the school.
A gift of this significance will help us as a school advance the science of social work and take our faculty research to a higher level.
“A gift of this significance will help us as a school advance the science of social work and take our faculty research to a higher level,” said Suzanne Wenzel, Richard M. and Ann L. Thor Professor in Urban Social Development and chair of the school’s Research Council.
New solutions for homelessness
Wenzel knows firsthand how this kind of support can help the success of a funding proposal. She used a previous gift from Watt to conduct a pilot study exploring transitions to permanent supportive housing among the chronically homeless to successfully secure a multimillion-dollar grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The application even received a perfect score from reviewers.
Watt praised Wenzel’s efforts to find new solutions for homelessness and access to housing and said he hopes that more innovative ideas emerge.
“As a result of her research, we found some opportunities that could be expanded upon, and establishing this research lab gives us that opportunity, as well as to hopefully move on to joint efforts between different schools and disciplines, such as public policy and education,” said Watt, who also sits on the board of the Union Rescue Mission. “We could go beyond just housing for the homeless.”
Watt also said he would like to see others inspired by the research being developed at the school so they could also find ways to support.
“I’m in awe of everything the school is involved in, from homelessness to the military to foster care,” he said. “When I put this money in the hands of the school’s tremendous faculty, I know there will be quality work and research done in homelessness and housing, which is near and dear to my heart.”