Elders: get resources, free laptops, hotspots and food

By Dianne Anderson

Before there were laptops, and back when there was plenty of affordable food, old people would greet a friendly face and an old-fashioned knock to see if they needed help.

Today, reaching the sick and locked down with life-saving information can be as simple as directing them to their device to download the app.

Pastor Kevin Johnson said the only problem is that many don’t own a device. If they do, they cannot afford to access the Internet. It is increasingly difficult to achieve aging in the age of digital communications.

“I think there’s a barrier that we’ve put between us and older people because of technology. It’s one of those things that as a society we need to achieve more, rather than make a website, and say hello, go to our website – find us,” said Pastor Johnson of Strength Church in Long Beach.

Johnson received a grant from the COVID Relief Fund through the Long Beach Community Foundation after the pandemic hit, but that money was quickly disbursed to the community. Their food bank and weekly drive-thrus served many boxes and bags of groceries.

“We hit hard and did it every week for a really long time,” he said.

But he remembers that when they first opened his church on the Bluff where people go to do yoga and exercise, he was right below a large homeless encampment.

The first to come to church were the homeless.

“They were hearing us having outdoor services, they were coming out of the camp, they were praying, we were leading them to Christ and there was food. One thing we noticed most often, the people who came were elderly,” he said.

Dina Berg, co-founder of Heart of Ida, said she wants seniors to come and take advantage of their programs, which recently launched new walk-in tech hours to help seniors fill out any requests. on line.

Some seniors don’t have access to technology and others don’t use it.

“We help them with phone devices, questions about how to keep in touch with family or specific questions, but also apps, to give them that extra one-on-one that most older people really need. need,” she said.

While there, they can access food from the basic needs pantry. The non-profit organization provides comprehensive services and stays connected through phone call messages on available resources. Its program is located at Long Beach’s main senior center, which also offers many adjacent services.

“Things are so dear to all of us,” she said. “When you think of seniors, fixed incomes and housing costs. It is a concern.

As part of the city’s digital inclusion initiative, CARES Act, and Long Beach Recovery Act, more than 1,000 hotspots and 1,500 computing devices have been distributed to low-income residents. income in the past two years. Recently, the City of Long Beach was also recognized as a 2022 Digital Inclusion Pioneer by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance.

Berg said their technology services came from a recent digital inclusion grant from the city, and the program will soon release 160 Chromebooks for their eligible low-income seniors. Depending on availability, they will also receive free hotspots for a year. After this period, Internet rates remain affordable.

According to the city’s 2021 Digital Inclusion Roadmap, households of color in Long Beach without an internet subscription work twice as much as white households. Black and Native American/Pacific Islander households are the most needy at 11.4% and 11.7%, respectively.

The report also reveals that 8.0% of Black/African American households in Long Beach do not have access to a computer, double the rate of white households at 3.6%. Older adults (65+) in Long Beach are without computer access at higher rates at 15.3%.

The lack of computers is a barrier, but at the senior center where Berg is located, many older homeless people come through the doors.

“They live in their cars, their rent just goes up. It’s the next step, it’s horrible,” she said, adding that her mother is 78 and has just moved to a new place, which has cost her dearly. “Can you imagine living in your car?”

She remembers how she and her sister first got involved in creating the Heart of Ida, named after her grandmother. Over the years and during vacations, her grandmother would take them to various seniors’ residences to volunteer and bring gifts.

Today, the program serves about 1,200 people a year, with direct and indirect services, providing clients with basic household items and food. They also help them seek help with utility bills, and seniors always appreciate what they get.

“I’ve seen people say, ‘Oh, do you have toilet paper? ” she says. “Toilet paper is so hard to buy and everyone needs it.”

They had also received a grant from the City of Long Beach to respond to emergency rental assistance and saw many older customers.

“Help to help people individually can be complex for people, especially as we get older,” she said. “No older person should be on the streets.”

For more information, call Heart of Ida at 562-570-3548, or visit http://www.heartofida.org/about-heart-of-ida/

For more information on how to get a free laptop and hotspot, see

https://www.longbeach.gov/ti/digital-inclusion/resources/

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