Access to computers gives homeless hope


POSTED: Friday, December 25, 2009

The sight of a homeless woman sleeping on a park bench at 4 a.m. next to the Waikiki police station was an epiphany for Curtis Kropar.

“;I was instantly infuriated to think that this was the best option she's got,”; he said of the experience a few years ago. “;I seriously could not tell the difference between her and my mother in Pennsylvania. She had the same build and same poufy hairstyle.”;

The woman's plight so disturbed Kropar, a highly paid computer programmer at the time, that he grew determined to help people like her improve their circumstances. He quit his job and founded Hawaiian Hope, a nonprofit technology-based company in Kalihi that views computers as a key to success.

“;People that are struggling to get food to eat are not going to spend $300 to $1,000 on a computer,”; he said. “;It's phenomenal what we've done in the last year. Dozens and dozens of computers were given away for free to people who have never owned a computer before.”;






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On the receiving end have been charitable agencies and shelters.

“;Hawaiian Hope is bringing technology to the people ... bringing hope into Hawaii,”; said Kropar, noting that computers make functioning easier in today's society.

In a job search they are increasingly necessary: More than a third of the 100 private and government employers his volunteers surveyed this year take job applications online only.

“;They no longer take paper. Society expects low-income and homeless people to go out and get a job, but many don't have the skill or access to even get the job application completed,”; Kropar said. “;If I give someone a computer, they can learn to do online job searches and fill out an application. The chances of being hired become significantly higher, and it will focus the people on education.”;

He has more than 400 secondhand computers to give to nonprofits and individuals who have gone through self-help programs at homeless shelters.

One major obstacle is that “;we are drastically short of volunteers”; to help him repair the computers. The second is the cost of buying the necessary parts. No one in his company gets a paycheck, including Kropar, who has financed the operation from his dwindling savings.

The company is also desperate for a larger facility before its lease at 631 N. King St. runs out. He needs at least 5,000 to 10,000 square feet, hopefully in the same location as its office. Next month Hawaiian Hope is opening a computer training center and Internet cafe next door.

It is all part of Kropar's five-year plan, which includes retrofitting buses for mobile computer classrooms and disaster communication centers, and a mobile laundry service for the homeless that can also double as water purification centers during disasters.

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