On a typical day at the Trinity Center, an organization that serves the needs of those experiencing homelessness and poverty in downtown Austin, dozens of people will patiently wait their turn to use one of four computers and five tablets available at Austin Free-Net’s free computer lab. They write emails, stay in touch with friends and family through social media, check job listings, and work on their resumes. Sometimes they simply browse YouTube or play a game for a brief respite from personal trauma or the stress of their daily lives. Along with the food, shelter, and social services that Trinity Center provides for their clients, Internet access has become an increasingly valuable resource and an absolute necessity for many people who are working to enhance their lives.
“Access is power,” says Paulet, an Austin Free-Net Trainer who works at the Trinity Center computer lab. Paulet, along with the help of volunteers, provides training and support for clients of all skill levels. They may teach beginners the basics of using a mouse and keyboard, and help others set up their first free email or Facebook account. “The lab is extremely popular and there is always a waiting list,” says Paulet. “We allow the Trinity community a chance to learn how to use a computer in a non-judgmental, familiar and comfortable environment.”
Austin Free-Net Trainer Emily also feels that providing computer access and training is essential for the homeless population she works with to achieve their goals.
“These individuals are disenfranchised,” she says. “Before they can re-enter society with gainful employment and accommodation, it is important that they broaden their horizons and connect with people and activities outside of the cyclical homeless bubble.”
As computers become more and more integrated into nearly every aspect of our daily lives, the training that Paulet, Emily and our volunteers provide to the homeless population only becomes more valuable. According to Emily, the possibilities that Austin Free-Net’s labs open up are seemingly endless. “I’ve helped clients reconnect with lost loved ones, write obituaries, proof read business proposals, design flyers, and uncover criminal records,” she says. “The variety of assistance and education that I provide my clients is one of the best parts of my job.”
To learn more about The Trinity Center, click here.