At the July 16, 2015 board meeting of the Kansas City, Kansas Housing Authority, a ceremony was held to honor Connecting for Good for receiving two prestigious awards for our efforts to close the Digital Divide in Wyandotte County.
Connecting for Good is this year’s recipient of the Special Achievement Award from the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (NAHRO), Kansas Chapter. We also received the Southwest NAHRO region’s Special Achievement in Support of Programs Award. These awards recognize public housing agencies and their partners for innovative programming that promotes self sufficiency and improves the lives of residents.
Since a partnership with the KCK Housing Authority was formed in 2013, Connecting for Good has worked to improve digital connectivity for low income families in Northeast Wyandotte County, Kansas. We have maintained a Wi-Fi network that provides free Internet to 200 units at the Juniper Gardens housing complex. We have also provided digital skills training and inexpensive refurbished computers to families in the community.
Since 2014, we have operated a community computer center at 2006 N 3rd Street in Kansas City KS in a facility owned by the housing authority. It provides daily public access to Internet connected computers for residents of Juniper Gardens and their children and for those who live in the surrounding neighborhood.
The housing authority, established in August 1957, is a non-profit agency that provides affordable housing for low to moderate income families residing in Wyandotte County, Kansas.
NAHRO is the leading housing and community development advocate for the provision of adequate and affordable housing and strong, viable communities for all Americans—particularly those with low- and moderate-incomes.
- Digital literacy training sessions are held each week at our main sites, 3101 Troost and 2006 N 3rd Street. We have also conducted them in additional locations throughout the urban core. Nearly a thousand participants have already learned basic computer skills this year such as using e-mail and searching the web. After completing the classes many received a desktop PC for $75.00 or laptops for $150. These computers are refurbished using donated equipment in a workshop operated by the organization by paid staff members, high school interns and volunteers.
- Our efforts are focused on neighborhoods where the 2013 US Census found only one in five households owned a computer. 2,106 people who took advantage of our training last year. 80% are minorities, 75% had an annual incomes of under $20,000 a year. 75% are over fifty years old, two-thirds are women, half had a child eighteen years or younger living with them. 25% of the participants had never used a computer.
- We operate a public access, twenty-five seat computer lab at our N 3rd Street center. It has served 1,100 adults and 700 teens and preteens since March 2014. Most adults who use it are seeking employment. Younger users do school work, games and social networking. A weekly Minecraft club has been started to engage these young people in some basic STEM-oriented activities.
- High school interns from Christo Rey Kansas City worked with us throughout the last school year. This summer, three interns from the American Indian Council, two from GreenWorks and one from the Urban Rangers have been working at our center. These students assist with digital literacy training programs and learn useful job skills in our computer refurbishing operations.
- In June, we brought free in-home Wi-Fi and a small computer lab to Glanville Towers, a ten story, 108 unit facility for seniors and the disabled operated by the Kansas City Kansas Housing Authority. Connecting for Good now provides free in-home connectivity to approximately 400 low income households. Upgrades have been made to the networks at Juniper Gardens and Posada del Sol. Before the end of the year, we plan to build Wi-Fi networks at two additional low income housing facilities.
- Starting last fall, a successful pilot project was conducted using 4G wireless Internet to get low income families online for just a $10.00 a month. A total of 106 households were involved. Made possible through a partnership with Mobile Beacon and EveryOneOn.org, the program is being upgraded to Sprint’s new LTE network.
- We have been providing input to government leaders working to close the Digital Divide. We are working with members of Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver’s staff to explore options for Missouri’s 5th District. Through participation in the National Digital Inclusion Initiative, we provided input to the Federal Communications Commission as they prepared to extend the Lifeline program to help low income citizens with in home broadband. Because of our successful efforts in public housing, we have also been in a dialog with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.
- Connecting for Good has continued to support other nonprofit organizations in their efforts to close the Digital Divide. We have provided training and inexpensive PCs to their constituents and staff members. And have assisted them with affordable IT services such as building PC labs, in-house networks and Wi-Fi hotspots.
On the Horizon
- Connecting for Good has partnered with a group of nonprofits to lay the plans for a community-based Wi-Fi network in a Midtown Kansas City neighborhood.
- We are participating in the Kansas City Public Library’s pilot Wi-Fi hotspot lending program for Kansas City Public Schools students to begin this coming school year. This is being conducted in partnership with the library, KCPS and Literacy Kansas City.
- Work continues on a long-term project with the City of Kansas City, Missouri to create gigabit computer learning labs at all ten of the Kansas City Parks and Recreation Department’s inner city community centers.
- We have laid the plans for a project that will provide free in-home Internet and computers to all of the residents of the Pemberton Park housing project. The facility is unique in that, in order to live there, residents must have legal custody of their grandchildren. Over 70 school children live there and most have no PCs or Internet access.
- Plans are coming together for another public computer lab/training center on the Missouri side of the Kansas City metro, East of Troost Avenue.
- A strategy is being developed to do more to reach out to the Hispanic community. This will involve getting Latino serving agencies the technology they need, free digital literacy classes in Spanish and getting inexpensive PCs and affordable Internet service to Hispanic families, especially recent immigrants.
- For too many inner city residents the emergency room physician is the family doctor. Connecting for Good is working to help improve the lives of those who struggle with chronic medical conditions by providing access to digital resources. We have recently received funding to collaborate with the First Hand Foundation in their Healthe Communities Initiative. They will work with us to bring medical testing, exercise programs and wellness consulting to reach out to people in the neighborhoods surrounding our Kansas center.
Download the PDF of the full 2015 Midyear Report
We have partnered with the residents association of Glanville Towers to install a small PC lab and bring free Wi-Fi Internet to all 108 apartments. The facility at 730 Nebraska is operated by the Kansas City Kansas Housing Authority and is for low income seniors and disabled individuals.
It is Connecting for Good’s fifth network constructed to provide free in-home Internet to residents in low income facilities. The facility gets its bandwidth from our microwave powered wireless backbone. Other similar projects we have constructed include Rosedale Ridge, Juniper Gardens, Posada del Sol and Amethyst Place.
Evie Alexander, resident association president, using their new computer lab
Evie Alexander, resident association president (above) , is excited to partner with Connecting for Good in this project. “This is something our residents really need,” she said. Though they all live on a very limited fixed income, the Glanville Towers residents association contributed $600 toward the computers and Wi-Fi radios we used in this project.
Over the next few weeks, we will be conducting free digital life skills classes to help the residents make the most of this new resource. We will teach computer basics, how to use email and how to browse the web. They will also be offering them high quality refurbished desktop PCs to the residents at Glanville Towers for as just $75.00. The computers are produced at our refurbishing workshop at 2006 N 3rd Street in Kansas City, Kansas.