Behind the scenes at Urban Pathways there is a remarkable collection of individuals who contribute to the efficacy of the organization.

Some of their roles are more expected than others, but staffers in less operational functions are no less central to the organization’s mission.

Case in point: Nicole McVinua, Director of Policy at Urban Pathways. The Connecticut native oversees all advocacy and policy work for the organization. That means partnering with outside coalitions to advocate for more government funding, presenting public testimony related to relevant bills under consideration at city and state legislatures, and staying apprised of the policy conversation in the broader non-profit world. Nicole also tries to shape legislation around affordable housing and voucher programs in New York City—policies that help both current Urban Pathways clients and those who are moving on to private market housing.

Most gratifying to Nicole, however, is the Client Advocacy Program she facilitates. It allows clients to be their own champions, to use their voices and personal experiences to promote the change they know the city needs. In non-COVID times, clients travel to Albany to meet legislators, attend rallies, and share their stories. “Watching clients use their past challenges to push for changes to help others is so rewarding,” says Nicole. “They really blossom from that experience.”

But coronavirus has meant a shifting of gears. Most of Nicole’s usual advocacy work was adapted in favor of more pressing needs: tracking COVID policies, helping clients access stimulus checks, procuring PPE, and advocating for incentive pay for staff working on-site at Urban Pathways despite the risks. Nicole’s job description also expanded to include several new duties, such as creating staff resource guides and drafting newsletters to keep clients informed of the city’s latest regulations. “We had to turn our client advocacy group meetings into virtual events,” says Nicole. “It’s been a successful transition, but some clients don’t feel as connected without that in-person element.” All things considered, though, Nicole says clients responded well to the pandemic and adjusted their routines effectively.

And Nicole? The march toward better policies continues apace. Nicole has her eye on both city and state budgets, which she hopes will provide for new needs at Urban Pathways brought on by the pandemic.

There’s always advocating to be done. Urban Pathways’ clients are relying on her.

By Urban Pathways on October 02, 2020