Life-Changing Internet in Pajaro Valley — Times Publishing Group, Inc.

In January, Cruzio Internet and Pajaro Valley Shelter Services partnered to bring internet connections to families transitioning out of homelessness — and the results are in.

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Maria Sotelo’s daughters Yuriana 8th grade (left) and Jacqueline, 12th grade, find internet essential for schoolwork. Jacqueline plans to attend Cabrillo College to become a dental hygienist.

This is the latest community partnership and infrastructure project funded by Equal Access Santa Cruz County, an initiative to close the digital divide locally.

Pajaro Valley Shelter Services is a nonprofit with a mission to help families experiencing homelessness transition into self-sufficiency and stable housing. At any given time, PVSS has up to 130 individuals — children and adults — living in its shelter and housing programs and serves more than 215 individuals a year.

Pajaro Valley Shelter Services reports the pandemic disproportionately impacted the predominantly Latinx, extremely low-income families that it serves. In April 2020, a month into the pandemic, 57% of sheltered families lost their employment due to shutdowns and business slowdowns.

To help families return to stability, Pajaro Valley Shelter Services takes a multi-faceted approach, which increases the likelihood of maintaining that stability for a lifetime. Among the services are family strengthening courses, financial literacy training, access to GED classes, and providing families with the resources and tools many might take for granted.

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Blanca Herera appreciates internet for doctor appointments via Zoom.

In fall 2021, PVSS reached out to Cruzio Internet for a broadband solution for multiple properties housing their transitioning families. This was a perfect project for Equal Access and thanks to past Equal Access projects in the area, there was already a reliable, updated network available to connect them.

Cruzio completed the infrastructure work for five locations, and in the beginning of 2022, 17 families got fast and reliable internet.

Parents are appreciative.

“Ever since the pandemic hit, my daughters have been asked to do most of their schoolwork on their computers,” said Maria Sotelo. “Having internet access has made it so convenient for my kids to complete their homework at home.”

Blanca Herera said, “It has made it easier for us to go to our doctors’ appointments through Zoom. My son is scared of every doctor’s office, it has made it less challenging for me.”

Maria del Carmen Carrillo sees benefits for her children — and for her future.

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Sugey Carrizoza works online to complete her GED.

“My kids and I love having internet at home!” she said. ”Whenever I’m helping my kids with their homework and I don’t understand how to do something, I just quickly go online and research it. One of my goals is to purchase a home one day. Now that I have internet access, I can join workshops through Zoom that give me information on how to reach that goal, like what type of loans are out there.”

Sugey Carrizoza said, “With Covid still being a problem, I have to complete my GED classes online 3 days out of the week. Now that I’m on maternity leave, I’ll be able to put more hours into my schoolwork from the comfort of my own home.”

Before this, most families could not afford broadband on their own and Pajaro Valley Shelter Services couldn’t afford to provide it.

“The Equal Access project between PVSS and Cruzio has had a big and immediate impact on the lives of our families.” said Mike Johnson, executive director of Pajaro Valley Shelter Services.

Internet is a necessary tool for families getting back on their feet.

As aspects of life become increasingly digital, initiatives like Equal Access are crucial in making sure community members who are most at risk have access to the resources they need.

Generous donations by community members to the Equal Access fund at Community Foundation Santa Cruz County make projects like this possible.

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Learn about plans for 2022, and how you can help: https://equalaccesssantacruz.com/

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