Staying Connected

Staying Connected

Staying Connected

Opportunity Home’s Free Wi-Fi Expansion Impacts Communities

By Brance D. Arnold

Yvonne Andrews and Loren Dantzler, both working mothers, rely on Wi-Fi to help their families stay connected and access important information and resources, supporting job applications, education and family medical needs.

Andrews, who is a public housing resident of Opportunity Home and a resident apprentice, said having the ability to connect to free public Wi-Fi has made a tremendous impact, especially in keeping up with emails and applying for jobs.

“I was able to easily apply for the resident apprentice position with Opportunity Home because of the public Wi-Fi available in our community center,” said Andrews.

“I can check emails. I can check social security and apply for Medicaid. I started school in September and I am able to do my homework.”

Dantzler, who is a former Opportunity Home resident commissioner and resides in public housing, felt less stressed due to the financial relief of having access to free public Wi-Fi.

“My two children use it for schoolwork and I use it for email, video calls, chat, Zoom meetings, searches on the internet, and purchasing needed items,” shared Dantzler.

“One time we lost internet due to a financial situation. I had to prioritize bills. Wi-Fi wasn’t a priority. It’s a great relief. Its an extra $50 I save a month we can use for other needs, such as groceries,” agreed Andrews.

In response to the challenges posed by the pandemic, Opportunity Home’s Board of Commissioners approved a $4 million budget in 2020 to offer free Wi-Fi to families living at its properties. The allocation was used for the installation of Wi-Fi throughout all public housing and mixed-income communities to provide an enhanced service.

“Opportunity Home has been working on digital equity since 2013,” said Opportunity Home Director of Innovative Technology Jo Ana Alvarado. “We started with two community rooms and had our first community room open with five refurbished computers, a printer and Wi-Fi for connectivity.”

“We soon learned that our residents were hanging around the parking lot after hours in their cars, mothers with children and parents seeking ways to connect to the internet. We knew we needed to do more,” she continued.

Currently, 74 Opportunity Home communities are equipped with Wi-Fi, including all of its public housing properties. More than 24,000 residents now have the ability to connect any device to the internet.

In addition to the Wi-Fi expansion, Opportunity Home also offers digital literacy and device distribution through its ConnectHomeSA program, empowering families to thrive in the digital age. Dantzler and Andrews both completed the program’s coursework and earned digital devices. In fact, Andrews now serves as an instructor in the program.

For Andrews and Dantzler, access to Wi-Fi as well as digital literacy and devices is more than staying connected. With personal and professional aspirations, it also represents a path to achieving their dreams.

“I would like to establish a home and employment, educate myself and start a business. I wish to write a few books, particularly about awareness of domestic abuse, and go into non-profit,” explained Dantzler.

“I am going to finish school, earn my business degree, stay active in the community and keep doing what I am doing,” added Andrews. “And this is helping me get there.”

View KSAT 12’s coverage of the Wi-Fi expansion.