By Miranda Chrone
Hungry, cold, alone, afraid, and sick; these are just a few words that come to our minds when we hear the term homelessness. And yet, homelessness is more than just this stereotypical image; and its impact is much more complex and widespread. In addition to food and financial insecurity, homelessness also affects one’s accessibility to technology and its advances. The digital divide is the “socioeconomic and other disparities between those people who have opportunities and skills enabling them to benefit from digital resources, especially the Internet, and those who do not have these opportunities or skills.” Not having accessibility to the Internet or social media leaves these individuals at a disadvantage in a technologydriven world. In response to this issue, the Rescue Mission of Trenton has created the TEACH program, which provides tutoring, GED preparation and most importantly, computer skills. Sheila Scott, a former coordinator of TEACH, explained that the program thrives on the great quality of their volunteers. “The program would not be viable without our volunteers, they are a major part of the program,” said Scott. “The results of the program are fantastic and I only see more success stories to come.” Technology has been consuming our lives for years now and it is becoming nearly impossible to live without. Everyday things such as checking email, surfing the internet or even applying for a job, all rely heavily on access to technology and being able to use it. Without the help of organizations in cities that experience the most homelessness, the digital divide would keep growing further and further apart. The TEACH program is great because it does not just focus on one thing; whatever the individual in need is interested in, they have volunteers waiting to help. The program also provides individuals with access to a number of other valuable life skills. It has even recruited volunteers who work with patrons on job placement and interview preparation. This sort of training prepares them for real life experiences that involve the use of technology. Zane Gaines, a resident at Rescue Mission stated, “The program’s mock interview prepared me extremely well for my successful interview with Dick’s Sporting Goods. The practice questions were just like the ones I was asked in my interview.” Since there is a such an interest in learning how to use the different types of technology, Ida Malloy, the life skills counselor at Rescue Mission, explained that they need volunteers with computer expertise, in particular. Our lives center around computers, iPhones and tablets more and more everyday. And while many of us have access to this technology and can easily put it to use, others need our help and support to overcome the technological barriers of the digital divide.
Rescue Mission of Trenton 98 Carroll Street Trenton, NJ 08609 Phone: (609) 695-1436 www.rescuemissionoftrenton.org