Posted on November 19, 2012

Bakersfield: PG&E Grant Buys Computers for Children at Homeless Shelter

By Tracy Correa

PG&E’s Lauren Lodien, an operating clerk in Bakersfield, helps Felicity, 9, and Makhai, 5, on new computers purchased with a PG&E grant to the Bakersfield Homeless Center. (Photos by Tracy Correa.)

BAKERSFIELD—Computers have become commonplace in most homes today, but computers are a rarity for children without a home.

A $5,000 grant from PG&E is helping to bridge the technical divide for homeless children at the Bakersfield Homeless Center. The money was recently used to buy five new desktop computers for Champ Camp—the center’s K-8 educational program—and they are all in heavy use by the children.

“This allows us to bring some cutting-edge technology to our kids,” said Carolann Wooton, the center’s administrative services manager.

The new computers were celebrated Friday (Nov. 16) afternoon at the center with PG&E volunteers and shelter staff. Students showed off what they were able to do on the new computers, most of it fun games since it was “Fun Friday” and homework wasn’t the primary focus.

Rosa, 5, shows off her painted hands during an art project at Champ Camp, an afterschool program for children grades K-8 at the Bakersfield Homeless Center.

“It’s cool,” said one 13-year-old boy as he used one of the new computers. “Sometimes when I get bored it entertains me.”

The Bakersfield Homeless Center has seen in increasing number of families with children—about half of the 150 to 190 residents each night are children.

Jerri Alvarado, who oversees Champ Camp, said there are 25-30 school-aged children who attend the after-school program where they work on homework, receive tutoring and participate in arts and crafts.

Homeless children already face challenges, Alvarado said, but they get further behind academically when they don’t know how to use computers simply because they don’t have access.

“They typically don’t come from a home that has a computer,” she said.

From left, PG&E's Kristen Doud; Louis Gill, executive director of Bakersfield Homeless Center; and PG&E's Laura Lodien, Mike Lodien, Shonda Abercrombie and Katie Allen, celebrated with kids in Champ Camp.

The center had relied on several used, donated computers in the past. Sometimes the computers would turn on, sometimes they wouldn’t and they were limited in what they could do because they were older.

Alvarado said having the five new desktop computers is huge.

“Even for the little children, just learning how to work a mouse, right click or left click,” she said. “For most of these children, it’s the first time they have ever been on a computer.”

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