For A SPAN, Serving The Homeless Is An Evolutionary Work In Progress

A quarter-century after it was founded as a local grass-roots effort, boosters of the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network (A-SPAN) paused on Feb. 8 to look back at the organization’s achievements and prep for the future.

“A-SPAN truly is changing lives,” said Todd Ihrig, who chairs the board of the non-profit, at a “Share the Love” celebration and fund-raiser held at the Hyatt Centric Arlington Hotel in Rosslyn.

“This work is personal – the personal connection with our clients is what shapes A-SPAN,” Ihrig said. “How tirelessly A-SPAN works to put people in homes.”

The event raised nearly $4,000 through a three-item live auction, then another $27,100 as part of a “Give from the Heart” effort to furnish facilities that will support an effort in Westover between A-SPAN and the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing to help house those transitioning from homelessless.

“The work is not done. We still have a long way to go,” said Kathleen Sibert, A-SPAN’s CEO.

But, she noted, there were many reasons to celebrate as the organization reached the quarter-century mark.

“It’s just amazing how much we’ve evolved,” said Sibert.

Today, she said, the focus is on “moving people from homelessness to a home” as well as providing social-safety-net support for those in need of services.

Sibert said the organization has benefited from community backing since it was founded by local residents – led by Lora Rinker – as a way to provide meals to those on the streets in the early 1990s.

(Rinker, who retired as the organization’s executive director in 2007, was unable to attend, but her family was represented by son Matt, a member of the acoustic-jazz Barton Street Three Band that provided musical entertainment.)

At the Feb. 8 reception, A-SPAN honored Koons Toyota Arlington, the Shooshan Co. and the Rosslyn Business Improvement District. “They have been with us from the very beginning,” Sibert said.

Also honored was the Hyatt Centric Arlington Hotel and its general manager, Ed Brogan, for underwriting the costs of the event and being a valued partner.

A-SPAN operates the Arlington County government’s year-round homeless-services facility in Courthouse, as well as providing a myriad of services in the community through both professional staff and a large corps of volunteers.

“I see so many friends and supporters and community partners,” Sibert said at the anniversary celebration. “We cannot do what we do without this big circle.”

The 2017 “Point-in-Time” survey conducted by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments found 174 homeless individuals in Arlington, both in shelters and on the streets, down from 239 a year before. The 2018 survey was conducted in January, with results to be released in the spring.

One of A-SPAN’s focuses in recent years has been eradication of homelessness among military veterans in the community. Working with the state and local governments, Arlington was able to report zero homeless veterans in recent counts.

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