Doorways opens new headquarters amid surging domestic violence rates in Arlington

An Arlington service provider for survivors of abuse celebrated the opening of a new, expanded headquarters last week.

Doorways hosted a ribbon cutting at the Community Services Center at 671 N. Glebe Road, a space designed around the needs of people who have experienced domestic and sexual violence. The spacious, brightly lit office in a Ballston high rise is meant to create a more comfortable environment for people seeking Doorways services, as well as the nonprofit’s employees.

“We are trying to make this as cozy and as trauma-informed as possible,” Counseling Program Manager Virginia Dominguez told ARLnow on a tour of the space.

New sound machines in the center’s counseling rooms protect clients’ privacy, while the larger office allows more staff members to work in person. The upgrade was possible thanks to a grant from Amazon, Doorways CEO Diana Ortiz said.

“This is a space that has a trauma-informed environment that will feel safe, that is promoting healing, that is promoting the dignity of our clients,” she said. “It’s a space that fosters safety, a space that inspires respect for the humanity of everyone.”

The headquarters is the latest piece of Doorways’ plans to address surging numbers of people seeking emergency shelter in Arlington.

In 2018, according to Doorways’ latest annual report, the nonprofit’s “safehousing” programs offered shelter to 58 survivors. Last year, that number had swelled to 135 people — more than half of whom were children.

Use of Doorways safehousing services over time (courtesy of Doorways)

Incidents of domestic violence swelled in Arlington and around the world during the pandemic amid lockdowns and strained economies, Ortiz told ARLnow.

“Survivors were isolated at home with those who harmed them, unable to access supports like friends, family members, and healthcare,” she said. “The stressors of the pandemic, including economic impacts, also escalated abuse.”

In part, demand for Doorways services increased after the worst days of the pandemic because people became more comfortable seeking services, the CEO said. But also, rising costs of living in Arlington have left many survivors with fewer and fewer places to turn.

“As Arlington becomes increasingly unaffordable, more people are on the brink of crisis — which contributes to stress factors that escalate abusive behaviors — and when crisis occurs, they need somewhere safe to go,” the CEO said.

Ortz noted that Doorways’ safe housing is for survivors who are “in imminent danger.” In 2022, 80% of adults who received emergency shelter were at “a high level of lethality risk,” according to the nonprofit’s Danger Assessment.

In response to surging needs, Doorways is in the process of expanding its footprint in Arlington.

The organization recently secured a $1.5 million federal grant to acquire a set of one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments to shelter survivors of violence. It also plans to increase the capacity of its Family Home from 11 beds to 22 beds this summer.

As for the Community Services Center, Ortiz hopes the upgraded setting plays a part in connecting Arlington’s growing numbers of survivors to the services they need.

“We are very honored to continue serving the community,” she said at the ribbon cutting. “I’m very humbled to be here today in a space that really speaks to our mission.”