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Rahel Solomon/MEDILL

Tina Ulmer, of FamilyWorks, assists resident Briane Hall, 19, explore education options at the Dearborn Homes Technology Center.

Word is getting around, and more residents now using CHA’s first technology center

by Rahel Solomon
April 05, 2012


Rahel Solomon/MEDILL

Since opening on March 7, 2012, more residents are taking advantage of the computers at the Dearborn Homes Technology Center.

A daily visitor logbook indicates resident use of the lab at the Chicago Housing Authority’s Dearborn Homes has doubled in the past two weeks compared to its first two weeks, since opening on Wednesday, March 7.

“They have to go all the way to school, or the library to use one [computer], now they have one,” said 22-year-old Gregory Holmes, a computer lab assistant at the Technology Center.

Despite the heavily reported grand opening of the center, employees of TEC Services, which staffs the center, say old-fashioned word-of-mouth and posters throughout the building have generated the traffic increase.

In the center’s first two weeks, 46 residents visited the lab to use one of the center’s 28 computers. The past two weeks have brought 95 residents to the center, a 107 percent increase in lab use.

For Brianna Lucas, 18, the center provides a place to submit job applications. She said her family’s computer broke late last year.

“I think it’s this: They give the jobs to the people who are lazy and don’t deserve the jobs,” Lucas said Tuesday of her unfruitful job search.

Lucas says she learned of the Dearborn Technology Center through posters in the building.

As of Tuesday, the center’s busiest day was March 27 when 18 residents used the center.

The lab is open to residents from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Various training sessions are offered throughout the week. A resume building and job Search session is offered from 1p.m. to 3 p.m.

Tina Ulmer, a FamilyWorks job readiness and training instructor for Dearborn Homes, said the center makes her job easier. Ulmer assists residents with resume workshops, goal setting and alternative education options such as GED programs.

Normally, Lucas, a Richards Career Academy High School senior, would stay late after school to submit job applications. Now that Lucas is on Spring Break and doesn’t have access to her school’s computers, she’s taking advantage of the center for her job search.

Despite applying for part-time work for more than a year, Lucas says she hasn’t had much success.

“I think it’ll be easier,” Lucas said of job prospects after completing college, where she hopes to major in forensic science. She’s still waiting to hear back from her college choices.

According to a CHA press release, The Dearborn Technology Center was funded by
a Broadband Technology Opportunities Program grant received in partnership with the city of Chicago, to provide technology access to low-income populations.

According to the release, the center is one of seven technology centers expected to be opened in separate CHA developments in Chicago over the next two years.