PathForward celebrates 30 years of empowering people from streets to stability
Local nonprofit supports Arlington neighbors in need this holiday season and beyond
From its beginnings in the late 1980s as a grassroots effort organized by two Arlington women to prepare meals for those in need, to now serving about 500 adults experiencing homelessness per year, local nonprofit PathForward (formerly A-SPAN) has evolved into an innovative organization with a full range of services to support the Arlington community.
With street outreach, a homeless services center, medical services, shelter program, day program, and housing as part of its services, PathForward is committed to providing stability by meeting basic human needs and helping those experiencing homelessness achieve independence.
Newest to its service offerings is the Mobile Medical Program (MMP), in which a registered nurse provides free, equitable public healthcare access by hitting the streets once a week to treat those in need.
“The MMP started in 2021 in response to the pandemic. We have a lot of people who are unsheltered living outside, under overpasses, under bridges, in the woods, and places that are unsuitable for human habitation, and then, with the pandemic, we found ourselves in a greater crisis,” says Liz Nohra, senior director of strategic partnerships at PathForward. “They were already coming to us with a variety of conditions, physical ailments, and mental health issues, especially vulnerable to the pandemic, so our nurse practitioner, Kasia Shaw (Sr. Director of Medical Services), said, ‘Look, there’s a need, and we need to get out there.’”
And as the weather cools and we enter the winter months, PathForward’s efforts heat up in a number of ways in addition to its year-round services, including through its hypothermia program.
“We normally have 50 beds year-round in the shelter program, but from November through March we increase our capacity by at least 25 beds on another floor of our building so anyone who comes to our door when it’s cold can have the dignity of some place safe and warm to lay their head,” says Liz.
Additionally, clothing donations become an even more crucial need to help protect those experiencing homeless from the winter elements. Since 2011, the Rosslyn BID has partnered with PathForward to help fund this need by hosting our annual clothing drive between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
In 2022, from Nov. 28 to Dec. 16, dozens of donation boxes were set up in buildings across the Rosslyn neighborhood, where you could drop off adult-sized, gently used winter coats, sweaters, sweatshirts, hats, and gloves in plastic bags. We are proud to share that 243 bags of clothes were collected at the conclusion of the drive!
“Every time we head into winter, I’ll be outside in the cold and think about what it’s like to not be able to go inside and have some place warm to be. Of course, our hypothermia program is open, but not everyone will come in. So during the winter months, extra clothing is so vitally important to people experiencing homelessness,” Liz says. “Our center has a clothing room where everything is arranged by size, is organized, and allows people to go through to pick out things they need.”
And while the past three decades have been incredibly successful through the development of these programs and more, the PathForward team looks on to the future with even greater goals to support those experiencing homelessness.
“We hope to increase the capacity of the MMP from one day this year to two days per week. Then in another couple of years we hope to increase it to full time, where the nurse goes out with an outreach case manager and a mental health professional who can provide support to people who may be experiencing complex mental health issues or substance use disorders, the types of diagnoses which are really challenging. That’s our dream – to have this incredible team of people on the streets full time.”
With a small but mighty team of about 40 full-time employees, PathForward continues to stand out not only for the services it provides, but for the compassion that comes with it.
“Our employees are shelter monitors, housing case managers, shelter case managers, our leadership team, our medical team – we just have truly the most incredible and committed people. They love our clients, and will do anything for them. We set a high standard of care for people who are experiencing homelessness; that has been since day one,” she says. “Every year, we have to raise about 25% of our budget, and that helps us to expand and support our programs, and they’re so amazing they make me want to exceed those goals so we can do even more.”
To mark its 30th anniversary and support reaching those goals, PathForward is hosting a fundraiser celebration titled “No Place Like Home,” at the Army Navy Country Club in south Arlington on May 11.
“We hope the community will embrace it. We have an amazing committee of volunteers working on it, and it’s going to be a great event,” Liz says. “We’re just really excited about it and the opportunity for us to raise these very necessary funds to expand our programs, support our employees, and provide even more quality, essential, and life-saving programs.”
Stay tuned to their website and social media for updates as the event approaches!
Additional ways to get involved
- Volunteer: PathForward has several opportunities for volunteers to give their time, energy, skills and imagination to further its cause. Complete the application form at the link to get started!
- Corporate Volunteerism: Looking for a way to give back with your team this holiday season? Consider donating your time to PathForward! Organizations interested in engagement activities can contact Nina Alomar at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Donate: From food and clothing to toiletries and bedding, PathForward accepts a wide range of items, as well as direct monetary donations on a single or recurring basis, to support clients with everyday necessities and beyond. Check out their Giving Page to see the complete list of eligible items, plus their Amazon Wishlist!