It’s easy to take the internet for granted when you have it.
Wifi at home and at work, and Wifi hotspots everywhere. Data on the cell phone. There are lots of ways to get online.
But what if you’re unemployed? What if you can’t afford cell phone data or home Wifi? What then?
For those people, Reins of Freedom in Hope is offering an option. Starting today (Thursday, Jan. 20), the disability employment services office at 895A 3rd Avenue is experimenting with an ‘internet cafe.’
The doors will be open to the public the next four Thursdays between 10 a.m. and noon.
“If you want to check your Facebook, work on your resume, search for jobs or just get a couple emails out to friends and family to let them know you’re okay, we have the technology and internet access for you to do that,” said Megan te Boekhorst. “A common pain-point for people we’ve worked with this year has been a feeling of being isolated and alone.”
“We have an open space where we can be socially distant, wear masks and everything and maybe have a sense that we’re not so alone.”
Reins of Freedom has three laptop computers available for use, and people are welcome to bring their own.
te Boekhorst said online access has almost risen to the category of basic need in the internet age, not as important as food and shelter but essential nonetheless. But for people who struggle to make ends meet each month, it is often the first bill they cut when they have to make tough decisions.
“But when you do that, you’re losing access to a lot of really valuable services,” she said. “Most government services, especially during COVID times, are online or through an app, and they can be confusing to navigate. They might have internet on their phone, but have you tried filling out really important paperwork on a phone? It’s not easy. So this is a place where they can come for support, it can change the game for a lot of folks.”
From a purely job-search point of view, gone are the days of door-to-door resume drop offs, or putting one in the mail.
From Indeed to Linkedin, everything’s done online.
“Because of COVID, a lot of people have started searching for jobs for the first time in 20-30 years and they don’t even know how the game has changed,” te Boekhorst. “They might not even know how to e-mail a resume to somebody. So having the ability to do that here and get support can be the difference between finding a job and staying unemployed.”
Reins of Freedom is federally funded through the Canada/British Columbia Workforce Development Agreement and funding is due to expire in March. She’s got her fingers crossed that funding will be extended, but if not, she said this internet cafe trial will still be valuable.
“Over the next four weeks, if we see that there is a need for this, maybe it can be brought into future programming,” te Boekhorst said.
For more info, visit facebook.com/ReinsOfFreedomHopeBC