Jul. 19, 2013 12:30 pm

Our Brother’s Place: volunteer at this homeless shelter’s digital literacy program

It's the first formal digital literacy program at any of The Bethesda Project's 15 shelters.

The computer center at Our Brother's Place. Photo from Alexandra Hoefinger.

Technology should not be a privilege. That’s what Cherina Jones believes and it’s what drove her to develop a six-week digital literacy program for men at Our Brother’s Place, a men’s homeless shelter in Callowhill that’s run by homeless support organization The Bethesda Project.

It’s the first formal digital literacy program at any of The Bethesda Project’s 15 shelters, said Alexandra Hoefinger, a former development associate at The Bethesda Project.

Jones, a volunteer at the shelter, developed a curriculum and recruited participants with Mary Sandifer, an engagement specialist at The Bethesda Project. The course, which teaches about five men per session, focuses on computer and Internet basics, as well as practical applications like how to find a job or a place to live.

The program and computer lab at Our Brother’s Place are significant, Hoefinger said, because many of the men who stay there aren’t able to access computers at the city’s libraries — perhaps the most well-known place to get free Internet access —  because they lack the proper identification to get a library card. (Though they could brave long lines in front of the Free Library and visit Adam Bruckner and Philly Restart to try.)

Out of the 15 shelters that the Bethesda Project oversees, about half of the Project’s shelters have computer centers where guests can get informal computer help, Hoefinger said.

If you’d like to help with the Bethesda Project’s digital literacy programs, email tmedwid AT

Read more about the Bethesda Project’s digital literacy efforts on its website here.

Juliana Reyes

Juliana Reyes began as lead reporter at Philly in July 2012. Previously, she was a city services beat reporter for the Philadelphia Daily News, as part of a project called “It’s Our Money.” She is learning to drive, learning to bike (in the city) but is an expert at taking SEPTA. She grew up in North Jersey and Manila, Philippines but she left the tropics for Bryn Mawr College, where she majored in linguistics. She now lives in West Philly.


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