“This is Not Where You Give Up”

Social Worker Rhea Mascoll Provides Housing and Support to Those in Need

October 02, 2020
RHEA MASCOLL, LMSW: Being a social worker can really change somebody's life. Just being able to take somebody from their lowest and know that being here was a part of them getting better or doing better. I think that's the most fulfilling part to me. It's like getting to know that person's life story from beginning to end.

We are a housing first program. So that means if somebody comes in the door day one and we can house them tomorrow, then that's what we're going to do.

What I'm going to be doing is your intake and just asking some questions, just to learn a little bit about you. And that way, we can best help you and connect you with resources. OK?

CLIENT: Like I've been really trying to work on myself, find God, to uplift my spirit. So that's what actually prompted me to reach out and get some help.

MASCOLL: I'm the first person, a lot of times, that the client meets and sits down with and really starts to share their stories. And my role is to help break down those barriers of trauma. You have some clients who are stuck. They've gotten here and they're like, I give up. But they're here because they want to do better, because they don't want to live on the street, they don't want to be without income. They want to say, OK, well, what can I do differently so that this doesn't happen?

And it's like getting them to understand that, no, wait, this is not where you give up, we're here and I'm here, and we're really going to work through this together, really motivating them to see the bigger picture.

Touro instilled in me a lot of hope and endless possibilities. I learned how to really engage people. One of my sisters was actually in an emergency shelter. So seeing clients in crisis firsthand, how to work through that.

This is Miss Michelle. She's one of the case managers.

STAFF MEMBER: Nice to meet you.

CLIENT: Nice to meet you.


CLIENT: Hi, I'm Mary.

Touro taught me the difference between having sympathy and having empathy, to understand what they're going through. They taught me really how to meet the need of anyone you encounter. Someone always wants to have a home, a place to be, a place that they can call their own. It is a sigh of relief and they're happy to be here, not in their car or not on the street.

Hope and love is a key factor. I think in order to fulfill anything in life, you have to have that belief.

The homeless women entering The Donna Center for Single Women and Families in Georgia are typically at their lowest. And there to help them get back on their feet is Touro College Graduate School of Social Work (GSSW) alumna Rhea Mascoll, LMSW.

“If someone comes and we can house them that is what we’ll do,” said Mascoll, who graduated from the school in 2015. “I’m the first person they speak with and share their stories with. My role is to break down those barriers of trauma.”

As supportive housing director of The Donna Center for Women, part of the Mary Hall Freedom Center, Mascoll meets her clients when they arrive, finds them housing and then works with them to find employment and overcome the issues they are facing.

“Many of our clients are stuck,” said Mascoll. “They gave up, but they still managed to get here because some part of them wants to do better. They don’t want to live on the streets and they don’t want to be without income. They want to say: ‘What can I do differently?’ Our message to them is that we’re here for them and we’re going to work through this together. This is not where you give up.”

Mascoll said that her studies at GSSW prepared her for this, especially fieldwork she did with a homeless shelter in New York.

“Touro instilled in me endless hope and a lot of possibilities,” recalled Mascoll. “I learned how to really engage people and meet them where they are. As social workers we are able to help someone at their lowest and build them back up.”

Mascoll traces her social work passion all the way back to middle school—when her classmates signed her yearbook and wrote how easy it was to talk to her and how much better she made them feel about themselves. After college, Mascoll moved to New York to care for her ailing grandmother and when a friend told her about Touro and the school’s mission, she knew she had found the place to put her passion into action.

 “Touro taught me the difference between sympathy and empathy,” said Mascoll. “As social workers, we need to do more than simply sympathize with our clients. We need to be able to understand what our clients are going through and how to meet their needs where they are.”

While she admits the work is hard, Mascoll said that the rewards outweigh it: there is nothing like giving someone a place to sleep.

“Everyone always wants a place to call their own,” Mascoll concluded. “There’s a sigh of relief when we take someone in; they won’t need to be on the streets tonight.”