GRACE Marketplace thinks of itself as being the Walmart of homeless centers.
In one centralized location in Gainesville, Florida, it offers end to end services: substance abuse counseling, help with signing up for public benefits such as food stamps, showers, restrooms, meals, a place to store personal belongings, an adjacent tent village called Dignity Village, and more.
Unfortunately, it just lost one crucial service: namely, the free Wi-Fi that could have helped Dignity Village residents to find or apply for jobs.
And how did this happen? Pretty much the same way a lot of people with roofs over their heads lose their service:
“We would love to be able to provide Wi-Fi out here, but we don’t have any IT support,” said Jonathan DeCarmine, GRACE Marketplace operations director. “We were notified by our Internet service provider that there were people downloading things illegally, and if we didn’t put an end to that, they would turn off Internet to the entire property, which would keep us from being able to do business and provide services.”
Meanwhile, at the next level up:
Theresa Lowe, executive director of the North Central Florida Coalition for the Homeless and Hungry, said she has no plans to turn the Wi-Fi back on. They had some security restrictions in place already, but people found ways around them. She said there can be hefty fees for illegal downloads, and that’s something the center can’t afford.
“We had a couple complaints from our provider and notified everyone, ‘please don’t do this, we’ll end up losing the service,” and it happened again, so our decision was to disable the Wi-Fi because we would be charged,” Lowe said.
Those whose business model depends on depicting the homeless as saintly and utterly without blame will be crying into their kale smoothies; as with any other community, any other demographic, “good” and “not so good” live cheek by jowl.