Lack of access to the Internet is a huge barrier to people who are trying to escape the cycle of homelessness.
In order to find housing or employment, homeless people are expected to fill out on line Forms, have access to e. mail, and make use of on line Benefits services such as Universal Credit.
Someone sleeping rough may not have used a computer for years, or ever been on line before. But every homeless person needs to understand how to use the Internet for tasks such as accessing health and social care information and services, completing on line job applications, or Internet banking.
This ‘digital exclusion’ leads to social and financial exclusion as services are increasingly delivered in a ‘digital by default’ manner.
To tackle this, Church Homeless Trust is funding a digital inclusion pilot with corporate partner Kinetic. The pilot will explore how best to support people who have been homeless with access to the internet on digital devices.
Hostel residents who have an interest or experience can become digital champions and help to support others. More than half of the homeless people in the pilot have never used the internet for services such as paying bills, and have little or no experience using a computer, tablet, or smart phone. Increasing their skills and confidence in using digital technology will improve their quality of life.
The training will not only build practical skills, but also help with personal development. The participants will be encouraged to research hobbies and interests, establish new relationships on line, and use social media.
This has an overwhelming significance for many homeless people, both in terms of maintaining contact with friends and family, and being able to participate in mainstream culture, such as their favourite music.
The hostel residents involved look forward to improving their life prospects, confidence, and skills through increased access to education, training and volunteering, work placements, and employment opportunities.