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New computer lab will put technology in the hands of those who need it most

Anyone who has a computer, yet is dumbfounded by how to do things like print what is on the screen or type a double-spaced letter, will appreciate the computer lab that was recently installed at the Bienestar Transitional Living Center, located at 1691 Washington Court in Sunnyside.

Jan. 28, the center received equipment for the new lab, which included five laptop computers, a laser printer, a color printer, a multi-media projector and several digital cameras. Roberto Matus, director of the Bienestar Transitional Living Center, said the technology was made possible through the Salvation Army, which has a partnership with the Beaumont Foundation of America and Toshiba.

Matus explained that Toshiba provided the Salvation Army with a grant for computer equipment. He said the Salvation Army runs 220 centers, like the one in Sunnyside, and of those, 44 centers throughout the west coast were granted computers and all of the accessories that come with them.

Matus said the Salvation Army has a program titled eQuip for Success, which is supposed to help bridge the digital divide. He explained that many low income families do not have access to computers and therefore when it comes time to apply for a job, many of them don't have the skills needed.

The computers, which are set up in a special room at the Sunnyside center, will be used to provide not only those living at the center, but also community members, with access to the technology. Matus said he plans to provide classes at the center ranging from English as a second language to basic computer skills. He said he is hoping to begin the different classes in April, although he is having trouble finding volunteers to help head up the courses.

Matus said the computers will also be made available to different agencies and organizations in the area who need access to them for various presentations or classes. He explained that the process to check out the computers will be relatively simple, with the agency using them taking on responsibility for the machines.

And those agencies who do opt to use the computers away from the center will have another incentive to bring them back. Matus said each of the laptops is equipped with a computer program that tracks where the device is located at any time.

Matus said the new computers have solicited a good response from the residents of the center.

"They all like it," he said.

The transitional living center has been operational in Sunnyside since November 2002, and serves as a place where families who are facing homelessness, due to domestic violence, having been evicted or living in unsafe or unsanitary conditions, can live during their time of transition.

Matus said the only requirements necessary to live at the center include having an income, either by working or through assistance, having underage children and a commitment to overcoming their current conditions.

"The idea is to equip them to face daily life as best they can," Matus said.

He explained that the center offers residents a variety of services, including counseling, seminars on budgeting and anything else a person might need. Matus said the center is equipped to house up to five families at one time.

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