Archive | June, 2012

Computer Lab

One of the goals of some staff at The Lighthouse was to set up a computer lab for residents to be able to use, get online, play some solitaire, and do some work on.  The first computer we set up was a Pentium 4 with 1 gig of RAM running Windows XP.  We used Ninite to download all freeware applications which meant that our software was both legal and free.  We installed Windows Family Safety to be able to both filter and give access to needed sites.

The results were mixed.  While many residents loved it, the USB wifi dongle was stolen, the speakers were taken and someone went out of their way to disable the internet and damage to OS.  It ended up being frustrating to our residents and to the staff.

The idea of reinstalling Windows XP was not something that any of us were looking forward to.  The process of putting a Windows XP disk into the machine isn’t that bad but downloading hundreds of Windows downloads takes days to download, install, restart and repeat many, many times.

As another option we looked at Linux.  The first Linux install we tried was Joli OS, which is a small lightweight OS designed for netbooks and older hardware (of which our P4 qualified).  Chris Powell installed the OS on a laptop and it worked great.  It is actually quite similar to iOS which means that it is different enough from Windows that users won’t get confused.  It is quite quick and has a large app store where you can download software.

Screenshot of Jolie OS 1.2

It has different user accounts and while still buggy, it does allow Lighthouse residents to access stuff online, view YouTube videos, use Open Office, VLC, Skype, and a lot of other apps.  We will be rolling out more computers and laptops on it in the next couple of months and will posting about how they work out.  Now I need to go and find some speakers.

Summer Programs at the Lighthouse

In June the Lighthouse started some new programs. Dennis, Whitney Rines, and Whitney Wilkinson, more commonly referred to as Dennis and the Whitneys have designed programs for all skill levels. There has been great turn-out and these programs continue to get better and better.

Monday – Recovery Class @ 1:30pm
This is a group to ask questions and receive answers about addictions. This group offers support on achieving and maintaining sobriety.

Tuesday – Art Classes @ 2:30pm

Art on Display

This class is a way for clients to express themselves in a new way. They do all different types of art and no experience is needed. Art is a great way to relieve stress and anger. Each person’s art has a chance to be placed in the hallways of the Lighthouse for everyone to see their wonderful creations if they wish, or they can keep their completed art.

This class is a great opportunity for volunteers to get involved. We would also appreciate any artistic supplies.

Wednesday – People Skills Class @10:30am

People skills class is a great way to learn communication skills needed in day to day life. The class is a great way to practice people skills in a non-judging environment. The class touches on many different topics which are useful for everyone. There is a lot of role-playing in this class, which participants really enjoy.

Thursday – Walking Group @ 1:00pm

MP3 PlayerThe walking group is a way to get outside and get some exercise among friends. They will be walking to various places and at times to activities. The walking group gives participants a chance to win great prizes like this MP3 player if they walk a certain distance over time.   If you would like to volunteer, please let us know online.

Friday – Funday Group @ 2:00pm

Friday is most certainly a fun day where different activities will be planned depending on the season and what is happening in the city. Some days there will be movies, some days the group will be going swimming or to the museum. Friday’s activities will always be posted on the calendar located at the main office downstairs.  If you would like to volunteer, please let us know online.

Design for the homeless

The Atlantic Cities has a fantastic post about excellent design and homeless shelters.

Sometimes when Theresa Hwang is visiting a project site, maybe the 102-unit Michael Maltzan apartments rising from the corner of East 6th Street and Maple Avenue on the edge of downtown Los Angeles, pedestrians will stop and gawk and inquire about what’s coming.

“What are you building?” they invariably want to know.

“It’s housing.”

“Can we move in?”

“Well,” Hwang then responds, “are you formerly homeless?”

And this always throws people for a loop. Hwang’s organization, the Skid Row Housing Trust, has been renovating and providing permanent supportive housing for the city’s homeless for more than 20 years. But more recently, dating back to a first collaboration with Maltzan about eight years ago, the Trust has been building its own developments that remarkably mimic market-rate condos. Really striking market-rate condos.

The strategy is built on the idea that high design matters for the homeless, too, because it changes the dynamic between these buildings and their residents – and between both of them and the communities in which they’re located. Nothing can deflate the NIMBYism that inevitably accompanies social housing quite like a building that looks like this:

Affordable Housing in Skid Row

Affordable Housing in Skid Row

Affordable Housing in Skid Row

Design makes a difference in mental health and these designs are spectacular.