[Hpn] COMPUTER CENTER FOR HOMELESS & POOR persons to serve 1000+ daily in LA fw in LA fw

Tom Boland wgcp@earthlink.net
Tue, 28 Nov 2000 02:23:49 -0800 (PST)


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COMPUTER CENTER FOR HOMELESS & POOR persons to serve 1000+ daily in LA  fw

"Today, the Los Angeles school district and a leading
social-service company are planning to open a school
designed to serve 1,000 homeless and low-income
people a day. Through it, these students will hook up
to the Web, get their own voice mail, and work
toward high school equivalency degrees."

http://www.csmonitor.com/durable/2000/11/27/fp1s3-csm.shtml
FWD  Christian Science Monitor - Monday, November 27, 2000

     [California] USA
     MOTIVATED LEARNERS

     AMBITIOUS SCHOOL FOR THE HOMELESS

     By Daniel B. Wood
     Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

LOS ANGELES

Shuffling past rundown hotels, vacant lots, and
warehouses, Cynbad Montgomery could be forgiven
for being a little pessimistic.

She's been homeless for several months, living on
skid row among those who eke out a meager
existence beneath blankets, boxes, and milk crates.
Yet the former receptionist is adamantly upbeat. If
she had a place to brush up on her reading and
computer skills, she says, she could escape the street
life.

"I'm already familiar with [Microsoft] Windows, but if
I could just learn Excel, I could get back in the job
market, no problem," says Ms. Montgomery, who has
hopscotched in and out of employment for the past 10
years.

Now, she'll have an opportunity to do just that.
Today, the Los Angeles school district and a leading
social-service company are planning to open a school
designed to serve 1,000 homeless and low-income
people a day. Through it, these students will hook up
to the Web, get their own voice mail, and work
toward high school equivalency degrees.

It's not the only school in America that's set up to
help the needy through education, but it might well
be the most ambitious. With its 25-computer lab, six
teachers, and five classrooms, officials hope to move
2,000 people off the street each year.

"To ... have a partnership between a bona fide
school district and a social-service entity is, we
believe, a first nationally," says Gregory Pate,
program manager for employment services. "This
will ensure that not only do our clients have the
necessary job skills, but they know how to apply for
employment and put their best foot forward."

Rising from the dust of a gutted warehouse nearly a
city block deep, the 22,000-square-foot Thomas and
Dorothy Leavey Learning center is believed to be the
first venture of such scope to be located so near the
people it's supposed to serve.

Location, location, location

Here in Los Angeles, for example, the other
adult-education facilities lie far from the 70-block
district where 10 percent of Los Angeles County's
85,000 homeless live. Moreover, with the exception
of a $10 registration fee, all services here will be
free.

"This is a major effort to do more than just aid
homeless people in their current plight but to help
them break the cycle and become contributing
members of society," says John King, president of
the Weingart Center Foundation. "We have the firm
belief that when you give people an education, it is
not something they can lose or have taken away from
them. They can improve their own lives."

Most homeless people are not far from being
employed, statistics suggest. According to the
Interagency Council on Homelessness, 49 percent of
homeless adults have worked within the past 30
days. And in L.A. County, which has the
second-largest concentration nationally, 76 percent of
homeless adults have been employed for some or all
of the two years prior to becoming homeless.

For Michael Hall, who lives temporarily in a local
mission, the only gap between him and a job is a
place to write a decent résumé, he says.

"I have wanted to learn how to create a résumé for
myself and get a job for a long time," says Mr. Hall.

It's a problem he sees all around him. One-quarter of
the people in this small downtown area cannot read
or write. "There are so many people just like me who
will be helped by this, who couldn't find a way out
any other way," he says.

The new center will provide evening and morning
classes in topics including reading, math, and
computer training. There will also be access to
telephones, job-preparedness workshops, and
employment-counseling services.

That's what has former receptionist Montgomery
smiling. "Part of the reason I have been on the streets
for several months now is that people who might hire
me have no way to contact me unless I continue to
walk back and forth to wherever they are," she says.
"When you have a county as big as this, that's nearly
impossible."

Beyond serving the population of homeless people,
the center is also hoping to attract low-wage workers
in the nearby garment and produce districts who, in
many cases, have limited education and language
skills.

"The size and scope of this project in reaching out
not just to the homeless but to employees in the area
are what separates this idea from others around the
country," says Ray Ochoa, principal of Belmont
CAS.

It's a tough job

Officials at the center are under no illusion about the
challenges ahead. On one side of the facility, separate
from classrooms, will be specially trained job
counselors and clinical services to help deal with
those potential clients who have drug, alcohol, and
mental problems.

In addition, the problem of homelessness is not one
that's likely to yield to any simple solution. Despite
10 years of economic boom, the ranks of homeless
have remained relatively steady, social-service
officials say. Roughly 3 percent of the US
population were homeless between 1985 and 1990,
and in 1994, nearly 600,000 were homeless any
given night. The US Conference of Mayors even
reported a 9.1 percent annual increase in demand for
emergency shelter in cities from 1994 to 1999.

"Anyone who thinks we can eliminate, eradicate, or
get rid of homelessness is kidding themselves," says
Mr. King.

But that doesn't mean the center can't be successful.

"We feel we can help turn [these problems] around
by dealing with the basic problem of these people,
which is self-esteem," King says. "When you can't
look yourself in the mirror in the morning, the rest of
the day is pretty bad. But if you can find an
environment that wants to support you rather than
tear you down, your odds of going somewhere on
your own are greatly improved."

END FORWARD

**In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material
is distributed without charge or profit to those who have
expressed a prior interest in receiving this type of information
for non-profit research and educational purposes only.**


***********************************************************
9000+ articles by or via homeless & ex-homeless people
INFO & to join/leave list - Tom Boland <wgcp@earthlink.net>
Nothing About Us Without Us - Democratize Public Policy
***********************************************************