Internet cafe opens for Skid Row residents

first_imgHis clothes are clean and he keeps his moustache neatly trimmed. He says he’s no computer geek but needs to get online to stay in touch with his kids back home and his pastor. Invoking the mission’s religious mission, George Bell, vice president of men’s ministries, offered a prayer as he opened the cafe. “Lord, we ask that they may use the Net to do a people search to find relatives who may help them,” he prayed. “Or that they may look at classified ads so they can find a job.” Users are limited to one hour and cannot visit all the unusual corners of the Internet – filtering software knocks out gambling sites and porn. But they’re encouraged to write up r sum s and look for opportunities off the streets. “We take the Internet for granted, but this reminds me of what a powerful tool it is,” said City Councilwoman Jan Perry, who represents the area. “Lots of people from Skid Row e-mail me with things like `cut the trees on this block’ or `there’s some crime happening here.’ … It keeps me sharp.” She gave out her e-mail address to the patrons and encouraged them to stay in touch. Lloyd Sawyer, who’s been at the mission two weeks, took her card and planned to keep her apprised of his progress. An Army veteran who recently lost his job at a Gatorade plant in Oakland, Sawyer came to L.A. to sort out an unpaid traffic ticket and ended up at the mission. He blames his past problems on a crack habit he says he recently kicked and says he has been sober for 17 days. He spent the morning looking on for job leads, hoping to put his talents – he’s college-educated, spent time in the military and is skilled in accounting – to work for something aside from sitting in the waiting room. “This is something to get me out of those green chairs over there,” he said, gesturing toward the rows of seats occupied by slumbering men. “There’s nothing for me here except sad stories and a whole lot of misery and I don’t want that anymore. I want to be a success.” (818) 713-3738160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! As he makes his way through life on Skid Row, Eddie Guevara carries with him a toothbrush, a cap, some packets of salt – and an e-mail address. The toothbrush keeps the 42-year-old bricklayer healthy, the hat keeps him warm, the salt makes the meals he receives at the Union Rescue Mission on San Pedro St. a little more palatable. But it’s the e-mail he sees as his ticket out. And now that he has a chance to check it, he’s feeling confident about his chances to work his way back to a regular life. “I’m not a street person. I’m looking for jobs,” he said. “Now I can spend my time doing that instead of spending all my time walking around, looking for a library to get on the Internet.” On Wednesday, Guevara logged on to become one of the inaugural users of the mission’s Internet cafe. Envisioned to give the homeless a chance to track down family members and search for work and lodging, the eight-computer site offers cheap snacks, hot drinks and inexpensive online access. For $1, they can get a large espresso, latte, mocha or 30 minutes on the Web. Billed as the first of its kind in the area, it provides a surprisingly cheery enclave not far from grim streets filled with vagabonds. As the name suggests, Skid Row is not an inviting place. Men and women encased in layers of frayed clothes push strollers and wheelchairs converted to mobile closets. Jaywalkers crisscross the streets. Guevara, who came from Wisconsin seeking work, ended up here after his construction job at UCLA finished. With no family and friends in town, he paid $190 a week for a room at a hotel but ended up in the mission after his money ran out. “I’ve got to get my stuff together because I don’t want to be here forever,” he said. “When I first got down here, it was a nightmare.” last_img

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