WiFi4Homeless Press Conference with Senator Alessandra Biaggi

On November 30th, the City Bar joined with community leaders, activists, and elected officials to advocate for internet access in all homeless shelters across New York State. The press conference represented the latest effort in the City Bar’s #wifi4homeless campaign, which seeks to educate the public about the digital divide that exists for New Yorkers experiencing homelessness and to advocate around the issue of technology access in homeless shelters. The City Bar was represented by Social Welfare Committee Chair Katharine Deabler, who expressed the City Bar’s support for legislation being sponsored by Senator Alessandra Biaggi and Assemblymember Karines Reyes, which would provide internet access to all individuals receiving temporary housing assistance across the State; her full remarks are included below. Click here for a press release about the event.

Press Conference Remarks

“My name is Katharine Deabler and I chair the New York City Bar Association’s Social Welfare Committee. We are proud to stand here today with fellow advocates and impacted New Yorkers to call all State-funded temporary housing facilities have reliable internet access. Thousands of New Yorkers living in temporary housing lack basic internet access, an essential service which could reduce the length  of  residents’  stay and  facilitate  their  exit into  permanent housing. Our City Bar Justice Center documented this problem, finding that only 6% of those New Yorkers experiencing homelessness surveyed were able to access the internet through their homeless shelter. The consequences of this stark digital divide on the lives of New Yorkers experiencing homelessness is devastating. These individuals and families are unable to search and apply for permanent housing and jobs, participate in remote schooling, apply for government benefits, stay connected to friends and family, or obtain necessary medical care.
The outbreak of COVID-19 and subsequent lockdown worsened deep-rooted inequities that exist for New Yorkers who experience food, housing, and economic insecurity, and are deprived of access to basics like reliable internet. Critical services and resources typically accessed in person by individuals and families residing in homeless shelters moved online exclusively during the COVID-19 crisis, leaving those deprived of access to reliable Wi-Fi and internet-ready devices effectively cut off. Though the State continues to gradually move towards more in-person activities and fully return to school, the need for shelter residents to access to these vital resources will not disappear.
All New Yorkers experiencing homelessness and residing in shelters face immediate and ongoing needs for reliable internet access. Senator Biaggi and Assemblymember Reyes’ bill would be a huge step towards closing the digital divide by ensuring that all shelter residents across New York State are finally guaranteed that access. We applaud their leadership and urge the Legislature and Governor Hochul to act on this critical equity issue this session.”