Housing Authority to purchase new RV, providing even more Internet access to residents

 

CASTER D. BINION, executive director, Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh.

by Rob Taylor Jr.
Courier Staff Writer

A new retrofitted RV will soon be coming to various Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh locations, connecting residents to the Internet, thus continuing the HACP’s goal of increased digital literacy for its residents.

Michelle Sandidge, HACP chief community affairs officer, told the New Pittsburgh Courier on Jan. 12 that the RV will be purchased in the coming weeks, and in use for residents in late spring or early summer. The RV was funded with a $150,000 grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation.

MICHELLE SANDIDGE, chief community affairs officer, Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh.

While there are computer labs at some HACP community sites, the RV will travel to the locations without a computer lab, and to locations that have “challenging Internet access, due to the Pittsburgh topography,” Sandidge said.

The RV will include a space for laptops, Wifi hotspots, computer screens, and a presentation monitor. It will be fully mobile, and will have COVID-19 safeguards in place. Sandidge said up to eight people can use the inside of the RV at once, but more people can participate in larger public events, such as “computer class on the lawn,” she said.

“This is an opportunity that we’re very grateful for,” said HACP Executive Director Caster D. Binion, in a statement. “We set out to bridge the digital divide in 2017 when we formally launched ConnectHomePgh with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the City of Pittsburgh. However, 2020 has further reinforced the critical need for households of all income levels to have Internet access and this support will allow us to scale up our programs and bring us closer to that goal.”

The HACP identified digital literacy and connectivity as “essential needs” for residents’ households during the pandemic.

“The pandemic has made the impacts of the digital divide even more acute,” said Sam Reiman, Director of the Richard King Mellon Foundation, in a statement. “Access to the Internet is an essential component of access to opportunity. We are pleased to support HACP’s innovative approach to bridging the digital divide.”

The RV is a continuation of the HACP bringing Internet services to its residents. The agency partnered with Comcast and is providing its “Internet Essentials” services at no charge to all low-income public housing residents, along with hosting Comcast Lift Zones in all after-school program areas run by HACP’s partners, the Beverly Jewel Wall Lovelace Out of School Time Program, and the ABK Early Childhood Learning Center.

“By providing residents with Internet access during the COVID-19 pandemic, we will help residents and families gain access to online opportunities and provide opportunities for work and school,” Sandidge told the Courier.

Sandidge said in a statement that the HACP “can’t wait to get this new RV out into our communities and start bringing more HACP families online. On behalf of the entire HACP and our Board of Commissioners, I’d like to stress how truly grateful we are to the Richard King Mellon Foundation for their belief in this initiative and their long-standing commitment to improving access to education and workforce development.”

The RV is a continuation of the HACP bringing Internet services to its residents. The agency partnered with Comcast and is providing its “Internet Essentials” services at no charge to all low-income public housing residents, along with hosting Comcast Lift Zones in all after-school program areas run by HACP’s partners, the Beverly Jewel Wall Lovelace Out of School Time Program, and the ABK Early Childhood Learning Center.

“By providing residents with Internet access during the COVID-19 pandemic, we will help residents and families gain access to online opportunities and provide opportunities for work and school,”
Sandidge told the Courier.

Sandidge said in a statement that the HACP “can’t wait to get this new RV out into our communities and start bringing more HACP families online. On behalf of the entire HACP and our Board of
Commissioners, I’d like to stress how truly grateful we are to the Richard King Mellon Foundation for their belief in this initiative and their long-standing commitment to improving access to
education and workforce development.”

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