City Bar Applauds Mayor’s Decision to Put WiFi in Homeless Shelters – Renews Call for Commitment to Close Digital Divide

The New York City Bar Association applauds Mayor de Blasio’s announcement today that he has instructed the City’s Law Department and Department of Social Services to ensure that “every” homeless shelter gets Wi-Fi access “immediately.” As we have seen through the stories shared by impacted individuals and the #wifi4homeless campaign, conducted by the City Bar and a wide coalition of advocates over the past few months, the consequences of New York City’s stark digital divide on the lives of homeless New Yorkers is devastating. As documented in the City Bar Justice Center’s 2019 report, lack of Wi-Fi access means homeless individuals and families are unable to search and apply for permanent housing and jobs, participate in remote schooling, apply for government benefits, and stay connected to services or obtain necessary medical care. It is essential that the City provide access to the following in all City-funded properties serving as shelters: reliable Wi-Fi connections for all shelter residents; updated Internet-ready computers, tablets, or other devices; and wireless or Bluetooth printers with scanners, or printers that maintain connections with the shelter’s computers, tablets or other devices. This must be a sustained commitment, and the City should consult with all stakeholders as it devises a plan to provide internet access in shelters. We look forward to hearing the Mayor’s plans for providing Wi-Fi access in shelters and how the City will close this digital divide.