The executive director of Pineville Neighbors Place describes digital access issues faced in suburban communities.
How does Pineville Neighbors Place assist people in need?
The poverty rate in Pineville is between 15 and 20 percent. What we have pledged to do is to have an office in Pineville serve that population so that they can get to help the need, we can connect them with the organizations that provide help. But with a convenient location and a convenient time. We do a lot of appointments so that people do not take time off from work. If you’re in a financial crisis the last thing you’ve got to do is miss work. So we do nighttime appointments, weekend appointments, whatever fits their schedule so that we can see them and get the help they need.
What complicates access to digital resources in Pineville?
One of the huge barriers to being able to have access to computers is that we don’t have a library that’s close. Years ago they decided to centralize our library system, which makes a lot of sense economically. However for accessibility it makes it very hard. Pineville is kind of in a corner of Mecklenburg County, an outside corner of the county. Our closest library is South County Regional at Rea Road. So it’s about 6 miles away and so you’re talking to 30 to 45-minute bus trip. If you’ve ever been to South County Regional you know their computers are booked all the time. So even if you get there — you’ve got to jump one hurdle just to get there — but then once you get there to be able to find time when you can actually get on a computer is very difficult.
Why is affordable housing an issue in a suburb like Pineville?
Housing costs have just gone through the roof and and so it’s very very difficult for people to find reasonably priced housing, whether you’re minimum wage or even if you’re a teacher, a police officer, or a firefighter. It’s really, really hard to live on those incomes with the rental rates that we have now. That’s another issue that we that we want to deal with in public policy. We need some reasonably priced housing that people can afford without having to have two, three, or four jobs.