Gabrielle DiMassimo stands in front of a tree near a river

Internship gives WSU student firsthand experience helping Worcester’s vulnerable populations

April 26, 2022
By: Mark Wagner

With a March snow storm on the horizon, Gabrielle DiMassimo, a senior at Worcester State studying public health, went out with the Homeless Outreach Team to an encampment near Park Avenue. The team was there to offer health and housing services to the individuals living there in tents.

The team was getting ready to leave when DiMassimo spied a tent in the distance. The project manager from the Homeless Outreach Team and a Worcester police officer made the first approach and found that a chronically homeless man and a woman were living in the tent. “The couple in the tent were young, perhaps in their thirties or forties,” DiMassimo said. They appeared  to be tired and affected by the elements.

Worcester’s Homeless Outreach Team visits encampments to connect willing camp residents with housing and medical services. Services offered include relocating camp residents to transitional housing, homeless shelters, or treatment programs, if needed, in addition to providing emergency financial assistance and application support for subsidized housing vouchers.

“We weren’t taking down anyone’s home,” said DiMassimo. “We were just trying to get them to a safe place during a winter storm.“

The team was able to get the couple shelter before the afternoon’s snowstorm, and they were willing to seek services for housing and health. “It was very fulfilling to see the process work,” DiMassimo said. “I felt like I was supposed to be there.”

DiMassimo is doing this internship – her first – with the city under the faculty sponsorship of Dr. Syamak Moattari. She received a $350 scholarship from the Binienda Center for Civic Engagement to complete the four-credit internship as part of the WSU Civic Corps. The Binienda Center’s director, Dr. Mark Wagner, introduced DiMassimo to the city’s Commissioner of Health and Human Services, Dr. Mattie Castiel.

DiMassimo took a position with The Hub, which coordinates wraparound services for some of Worcester’s most vulnerable populations. Under supervisor Leah Serafin, she has helped in the Homeless Outreach Program and the Quality of Life Task Force by assessing and addressing the needs of populations experiencing homelessness. She has also updated listings in Stigma Free Worcester, a mobile app that provides local resources for substance abuse recovery, mental health, and housing.

Through her internship, DiMassimo has learned how public health policies are formed and how various agencies work together to provide services. She has also gained experience in data collection and analysis.

After graduation, DiMassimo is interested in continuing her work with the city, and the skills she’s developed and the connections she’s made within the Department of Health and Human Services through her internship will be useful when she starts her career after graduate school.

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