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Unwanted laptops recycled into lifeline for London homeless people

A project to give recycled laptops to hundreds of homeless men and women has launched in London.

The ground-breaking Laptops for Homeless Support Initiative restores unwanted hardware and donates the devices to homeless and vulnerable people supported by Thames Reach.

The project is being piloted by the London charity in partnership with Socialbox.biz, a social enterprise dedicated to finding innovative ways to recycle some of the estimated two million working laptops and computers scrapped in the UK every year.

Peter with his new laptop.Peter Gibbs was among the first ten people to receive a device at a special launch event held at the Thames Reach Camden Spectrum Centre in London on Wednesday, 24 February.

The 33-year-old said he was thrilled with his Hewlett-Packard laptop.

“For people struggling with homelessness and addiction it’s a big challenge to access technology because of lack of funds,” he added.

Peter has been homeless on and off for the past 11 years due to drug addiction. With help from Thames Reach, he secured a place in a hostel in Hackney in December 2015, having spent the previous two years living on the streets.

“I’ve struggled over the years to interact and integrate through technology,” he explained. “When projects like this are available for people like me, it’s a big thing. Hopefully it will happen a lot more.”

Thames Reach service user recerves laptop from Camden Councillor Patricia Callaghan, CEO of Thames Reach Jeremy Swain and Socialbox.biz founder Peter Paduh. Thames Reach will also provide IT training for homeless men and women through its Employment Academy, which runs a digital skills program to improve people’s literacy, numeracy and basic IT skills.

CEO of Thames Reach Jeremy Swain said he was impressed with the quality of the refurbished devices, and plans to secure another 1,000 laptops to distribute among Thames Reach service users.

“It’s a fantastic way of empowering people,” he said. “While most homeless people have access to very basic mobile phones, we found the majority really struggled to get onto the internet. The item they require most is a laptop because they are so portable.

“I was really impressed with how imaginatively our service users intend to use them, from helping with their volunteering work, to gaining new skills, applying for jobs, accessing support services, pursuing their hobbies and – most importantly – to communicate with friends and relatives.”

Thames Reach service users try out their new laptops.Deputy Leader of Camden Council, Councillor Patricia Callaghan attended the launch event and presented the laptops to their new owners.

She said: “Too many people do not have a home that is decent, affordable and secure. Government benefit cuts and changes to the way charities are funded are causing sharp increases in homelessness and rough sleeping.

“Despite Camden’s financial challenge and severe cuts to our funding from this Central Government, preventing homelessness continues to be a priority and we will continue to invest in these services.”

Having access to a laptop could potentially offer a lifeline to homeless people both in Camden and across London.

Peter tells INSP that he also suffers ADHD and used to deal with his disorder by taking drugs. He believes having access to the internet will help to distract him when his symptoms act up, and will also help him to rebuild his strained relationship with his family.

“I can only contact my family online through email right now so this will help me rebuild those bridges,” added Peter. “I really appreciate that.”

To donate your old laptop to a homeless person, visit socialbox.biz or call 0843 289 5722

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