Calgary Drop-In Centre tweaks Wi-Fi limits after client complaint

According to the Drop-In Centre, clients have had access to wireless Internet since the summer of 2018 when Shaw made a donation.

Shelter will allow clients access to email and social media in addition to approved links

The Calgary Drop-In Centre has placed limits on the websites that can be accessed through its Wi-Fi network. (Bryan Labby/CBC)

After a client complaint, the Calgary Drop-In Centre is changing its Wi-Fi restrictions.

At the beginning of the month, the shelter changed its open network, restricting clients to a list of links instead of giving users access to the entirety of the World Wide Web. The idea behind the switch was to make sure folks using the DI's services are focused on getting out of emergency shelters.

"The Calgary Drop-In Centre welcomes feedback from the people who use its programs, and we've re-assessed our free Wi-Fi access to include email and social media," read a statement from executive director Sandra Clarkson. "We continually evaluate people's needs and will make program adjustments as required. Our goal as a housing-focused emergency shelter is to help people end their experience in homelessness."

The list of allowed web pages included housing links along with government supports and other resources to help folks struggling with homelessness get back on their feet. In the initial launch of that resource page, there was no way for clients to access email or social media.

Last week, client Ken Johns argued the change would be detrimental. He said many people in his situation need email to apply for jobs, and instead of the available rentfaster link, he said, the homeless often look for housing on sites like Craigslist or Kijiji.

Johns also spoke to CBC about the comfort of crawling into bed after a hard day and using the shelter's wireless connection to enjoy a film on Netflix — like many people do to wind down.

What's more, Johns pointed out some can't leave the shelter and don't have cellphone plans to connect with family and instead use Facebook to keep in touch. 

The shelter has had Wi-Fi since the summer of 2018 when Shaw donated access to the web. The network was open. After looking at how clients were spending time online, the DI decided to re-evaluate and better align the connection with the centre's principles.


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