Laptops Give Hope, Helps the Homeless

Grassroots project gives free laptops to the homeless so they can find work

By Robin Rowe

HOLLYWOOD, CA (Gosh!TV) 3/31/2011 – Gosh!TV, in collaboration with the Hollywood industry association ScreenPlayLab, gives away free laptops to the homeless and other worthy causes. I’m one of the founders of ScreenPlayLab, a 4,500-member group of writers, actors and producers. The Laptops Give Hope initiative came about after a ScreenPlayLab member mentioned his laptop had died. As a starving actor he couldn’t afford to replace it and couldn’t look for work without it. I gave him an old laptop I wasn’t using. I found out later that the actor’s circumstances were much more dire than I had imagined, that getting a free laptop made a crucial difference in his life.

For over a year, ScreenPlayLab members have been donating laptops every month in order to help other struggling artists. Free laptop rrecipients are people who are already helping themselves as much as they can under the circumstances, where getting a laptop would give them the tools to make a significant change for the better in their life or in the lives of others.

There’s no non-profit corporation, no grant, and no board for Laptops Give Hope. It’s a 100% volunteer grassroots effort. It empowers the homeless by taking laptops headed for the junk pile, refurbishing them, and giving them to those who desperately need a laptop to better themselves. Recipients receive laptops ready to be used to search for jobs on the Internet, write resumes or grant proposals as Word documents, and to edit budgets as Excel spreadsheets.

Because the donated laptops are castoffs, they are older machines. They often have to be kept plugged in because the batteries won’t hold a charge. Any donated machines that are in truly bad shape go to the recycling station at UCLA. The rest get minor repairs and are wiped to eliminate any viruses, pirated software or personal data. The free Puppy Linux operating system is then installed. That’s looks like Windows, and although it doesn’t run Windows software, it includes free office software than edits Word and Excel documents. The laptop has WiFi for getting on the Internet. Starbucks or a friendly neighbor who has wireless DSL are access points to get on the Internet for free.

Recipients must be members of ScreenPlayLab. The group can be joined for free by signing up through the ScreenPlayLab website. Recipients are typically residents of Los Angeles in disadvantaged circumstances. An exception was a laptop delivered to New York to a producer so she could write a grant proposal for a program to help the deaf.

While the laptops are intended to help the disadvantaged, there aren’t enough laptops to help everyone who has a hard luck story. What the program looks for is a good business plan to achieve tangible results that make a positive difference and achieve self-sufficiency.¬†Applicants email contact details and a note that describes how having the laptop will make a positive difference in his life or the lives of others and increase self-sufficiency.

ScreenPlayLab members receive a weekly newsletter of industry events by email. That gives details of where  to donate or apply for a free laptop.

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