Volunteers of America-Greater New York Launches Campaign to Provide WiFi at Its Homeless and Domestic Violence Shelters
(FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – NEW YORK, NY) As New York City has shifted to a blended education model that includes remote and in-school learning with more than 50% of students choosing remote-only, Volunteers of America-Greater New York announced today the launch of an ambitious fundraising campaign to provide internet access at each of the organization’s family homeless and domestic violence shelters. As one of the largest human service providers in the tristate area, VOA-Greater New York operates four shelters for families experiencing homelessness, as well as three domestic violence shelters. Combined, they are temporary home to approximately 1,000 school-age children annually.
Myung J. Lee, President and CEO of VOA-Greater New York, said, “VOA-Greater New York is committed to meeting our clients’ needs in any way we can. Even though the Department of Education has provided data-enabled tablets to public school students, children in our shelters are still having trouble connecting to the internet. These children deserve as much, if not more, support than their housed peers. We must level the playing field by providing reliable internet access. The pandemic has illustrated how critical it is for us to close the digital divide immediately.”
The estimated cost to bring WiFi to VOA-Greater New York’s seven shelters – including one-time installation costs and annual maintenance – is approximately $890,000. Lee noted that the cost is high, especially in underserved neighborhoods where cell towers are inadequate—like the South Bronx where two of VOA-Greater New York’s family shelters are located. A sample of estimated costs are:
- Installation and a full year of WiFi at VOA-Greater New York’s largest family shelter -$255,600
- One-time cost to wire one floor - $18,000
- Monthly WiFi cost for a small domestic violence shelter - $2,700
- Full year of internet access for a family - $400
- · One month of internet access for three families - $100
To date, Volunteers of America-Greater New York has raised $30,000 that will be used to wire and create a learning pod at one of the nonprofit’s domestic violence shelters.
Half of that funding was donated by the Arman Roy Foundation. Founded by Manisha and Pryia Roy to honor the memory of their son Arman who died in 2019 at the age of 15, the Foundation’s mission is to build positive futures through technology for society’s most vulnerable youth facing poverty, homelessness, abuse, and human trafficking. Mrs. and Mr. Roy said, “Always mindful of how fortunate he was to have access to the latest technology, Arman’s dream was to reduce the great digital divide in terms of education and access available to children in challenging socioeconomic environments.“
Myung Lee added, “It’s only fitting that Arman’s name means hope in Hindi. With this generous gift, his legacy is giving hope – as well as practical help – to so many children in VOA-Greater New York shelters.”
VOA-Greater New York provides other essential educational support to children in shelter. Since 2003, its community service project known as Operation Backpack® has given more than 220,000 brand new backpacks filled with grade-specific school supplies to children living in shelters across the city. This year alone, Operation Backpack® provided backpacks and supplies to every child living in a New York City shelter who needed one – 18,000 in total.
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Volunteers of America-Greater New York (VOA-Greater New York) is the local affiliate of the national organization, Volunteers of America, Inc. and is one of the largest providers of human services in the metropolitan New York area. VOA-Greater New York has 1,200 paid staff that provide life-changing, often life-saving services through 80 programs in New York City, Westchester County and Northern New Jersey. VOA-Greater New York expands and introduces new services in response to community needs. As such, it is at the forefront of building affordable, supportive housing for seniors, providing a service-rich continuum of care for formerly homeless veterans, and expanding its services for those recovering from domestic violence. Operation Backpack® is the organization’s signature community service campaign with the goal of ensuring every student experiencing homelessness and living in a NYC shelter has a new backpack full of supplies in time for the first day of school.