Student Story

Samuel Fonseca '22MSW: Supporting Veterans Experiencing Housing Instability

What the Job Entails

Samuel Fonseca is a clinical social worker for the Housing and Urban Development-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program at the VA Boston Healthcare System. This collaborative initiative combines rental assistance with support services for veterans experiencing housing instability. As part of the Red Team, Samuel works with 12 veterans who have co-occurring mental health diagnoses and substance use disorders. His work brings him into the veterans' apartments, where he offers psychotherapy, case management, or both. "It's about stabilization," says Samuel, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who served in Iraq. "We see our veterans through the whole change process, from being homeless to being housed to eventually graduating from the program. They then can move anywhere in the country."

What Brought Him to Simmons

A graduate of UMass Boston with a degree in criminal justice, Samuel was a public safety officer at Boston Medical Center when he discovered he was skilled at interacting with people in crisis. He decided that a career in social work might be his calling. He attended an open house at Simmons Social Work and appreciated the size and approach of the program. "Simmons felt like a strong fit for me," he says.

How Simmons Prepared Him

Samuel praises Simmons for developing his formal skills and providing clinical experience tailored to his goal of working with veterans. "I had a great educational experience—the best I've had," he reports. Faculty and classmates active in different areas of the field enriched his learning, he says, as did opportunities for in-class simulation with actors. He cites courses in cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness, and social work practice as standouts. For his first placement, Samuel served on the Outreach Team for the Pine Street Inn, offering case management and crisis intervention for individuals facing chronic homelessness. His second placement in the HUD-VASH program led to his current position. "Everything fell into place," he says. "My placements helped me to apply and fine-tune what I'd learned from my courses for a smooth transition." Beyond the classroom and the field, Samuel also participated in the Student Veterans of America chapter at Simmons.

Why it's rewarding

"When you meet someone on the street, it's hard to understand their whole story because they're in survival mode," says Samuel, who recently passed the LCSW exam. "But once they're housed, they open up. I might find out they love to paint or cook or decorate. I begin to see different sides to their personalities, to hear their different life experiences. And that's what I love about being a social worker: you learn there's always more than meets the eye. We all have a story."

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