By Mike Allen

Pictured: Oasis trainer David Beevers helps Trinity Place resident John Hurst with his new tablet.

February 19, 2022 (San Diego) — Getting homeless people off the streets is just one step in a multi-pronged approach to achieving a life of self-sufficiency. An example of a follow-up step is an innovative program by San Diego Oasis: giving low-income seniors and homeless seniors smart technology devices that can make a difference in their lives.

Earlier this month, about 25 residents of Trinity Place, a new Grantville residence serving formerly homeless people over the age of 55, received Samsung tablets and a training session on how to use the device from Oasis, which is based at the Grossmont Center in La Mesa.

The group included people savvy enough to ask questions about virus protection, and others who struggled to figure out how to swipe the screen to be able to write and receive emails.

“There are people who have never had email before and people who don’t know where the power button is. There are different levels,” said David Beevers, digital divide program manager for Oasis San Diego and trainer for the session at Trinity Place.

The idea is to give formerly homeless people an essential tool to help them stay connected and make new connections, Beevers said.

Because so many offices, especially healthcare providers, have shifted to delivering services online during the pandemic, those without internet-connected devices have often been overlooked, he said. he declares.

“There were so many places that were closed, they weren’t answering the phone,” he said. “It gives them a way to get in touch or apply online (for a job)… If you’re looking for a job, you don’t come through with a paper CV anymore. Everything is online.

In addition to receiving basic training on the use of the tablet, Trinity Place residents also received a $100 card for Oasis classes and 12 months of internet access.

Most residents were familiar with cell phones, but had never owned a tablet before.

“I think (the tablet) is great, I love it,” said Fran Dryden, who said she had been homeless for about four and a half years. When asked what she was going to use the device for, Dryden, 65, said simply “for education”.

One of Trinity Place’s 74 residents, Dryden said, likes the bright, modern facilities at 7240 Mission Gorge Road, which opened in September. “It’s great, it’s a roof over my head,” she said.

David Webster, 58, said he had been a resident of Trinity for about three months. “This (tablet) gives me a second chance to get a job,” he said. Webster said he intended to use Oasis courses for continuing education and finding employment as a welder.

John Hurst, 55, a wheelchair-bound Trinity Place resident, said he was familiar with computers that had at one point worked to refurbish them and resell them online. But tablets didn’t exist back then, so he was still learning the basics like using the different buttons and what they can do, he said. “There are so many options on that,” Hurst said. “I plan to take some of these courses (from Oasis) to learn how to use it better.”

Funding for the Oasis Digital Divide program amounts to more than $500,000, enough to pay for some 700 tablets. Funding came from corporate donations, nonprofit foundations, and private contributors. Some of the corporate sponsors and philanthropic donors include the San Diego Foundation, North County Covid Recovery Fund, Matthews Foundation, CJ and Dot Stafford Memorial Trust, Gary and Mary West Foundation, San Diego Rotary 33, Harrah’s Rincon Casino, French Fondation Weaver and Kaiser Foundation.

Oasis, a nonprofit that offers a range of continuing education courses for seniors through its La Mesa facility, is seeking more corporate and individual donations for the Digital Divide program. It is also looking for volunteers to deliver the training to adults who have never owned such technological devices, said Jolyn Parker, vice president of external relations for Oasis.

Among the organizations working with Oasis to distribute the tablets are the Alliance for African Assistance, St. Paul’s PACE and Catholic Charities, all of which run residences serving low-income seniors.

Parker also credited AT&T for its role in securing Samsung’s tablets. She noted that the devices have made a huge difference for many seniors who are not restricted in their use.

“They can use them however they want, but mostly for telehealth services, talking with family and friends, and learning things,” Parker said. “A lot of these older people are isolated and lonely, and this will be a way to combat that.”

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