ShelterConnect: Free Wifi for Homeless Community

About Solution

ShelterTech was founded in San Francisco in 2016 by Darcel Jackson after he was injured at work and experienced life on the streets. He envisioned an organization that built technology to serve those who need it most -- the 8,000 or so San Franciscans who find themselves unhoused every night in San Francisco. ShelterTech is committed to building technology products in conjunction with people who have lived experience of homelessness. One of ShelterTech's initiative is called ShelterConnect, which installs wifi in shelters and transitional housing facilities in conjunction with Internet Service Provider, MonkeyBrains. Internet offers numerous benefits for people experiencing homelessness: it can help them apply for housing and benefits, schedule appointments with doctors and case managers, search for jobs, and stay in touch with family and friends. It can be a lifeline to support and opportunity, and also a way to relax at the end of a long and stressful day. In the past years, ShelterConnect installed wifi in Episcopal Community Services’s NextDoor shelter (serving 300 people per night), The Sanctuary (300 people per night), Mary Elizabeth Inn and The Verona Hotel (over 100 people per night), Dolores Street Community Services’ Dolores Shelter Program (80 people per night), and Community Awareness & Treatment Service Inc.’s Coronado Hotel (60 people per night). Now, on any given night, over 600 people have access to wifi thanks to ShelterConnect’s work. A small amount of money goes a long way: $50 provides Dolores Shelter Program with wifi for a month — serving 86 people per night for a cost of $0.02 per person per night. Our goal next is to wire all of Larkin Street Youth Services facilities with wifi. These 15 facilities house about 350 youth under the age of 25 per night, and touch 2500 people per year. For these kids, wifi is like running water. They can't imagine a life without it, and they keep asking the shelter staff when they are going to get it. Wifi will allow the residents to access jobs and educational opportunities, coordinate with case managers and doctors, and keep in touch with friends and family. It will provide a lifeline and connection to the technology opportunities surrounding them in San Francisco and ensure that this vulnerable population does not get left behind.



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