Not long ago, Joseph Clairmont didn’t even know how to turn on a computer.
The Dodge House resident learned, and now he’s using one to learn to speak German.
“I spent two years in Germany in the Army,” the 59-year-old said.
Clairmont isn’t just learning about computers. Thanks to Dodge House — which houses homeless veterans and provides a variety of other services to veterans in the community — and Comcast, he owns one. The cable company has provided the facility with 50 laptops, an additional internet connection and $20,000 grant to provide computer services to veterans in the area. Goodwill of Northern New England is helping out, too, providing computer bags to go with the laptops.
“Any veteran that comes that’s interested, gets a computer and a bag and instruction on whatever they need,” said Dodge House Executive Director Christina Morgan.
Morgan said numerous veterans don’t have or know how to use computers. She that is probably more of a generational phenomenon than one unique to veterans, but it does tend to aggravate certain issues for veterans, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There’s a lot of VA opportunities that are online,” she said. “If they’re at home alone, that could be a challenge for them.”
Morgan noted that job training and recovery services moved online during the pandemic.
“Even contact with loved ones — there are people that don’t have that contact and if you don’t know how to use a computer, it’s so big,” said Sherri Prouty, who teaches computer classes for veterans at the facility.
Morgan said the sort of help their clients need can be hard to come by, but Prouty had been able to spend time with veterans individually, working with them on specific needs.
“A lot of places, you sign up for classes, it’s Microsoft Office,” she said. “We’re talking about, how do you turn it on? How do you use the mouse? ... A lot of our vets experience those barriers.”
Carlos Simon, a 65-year-old Marine Corps veteran, said before Dodge House hooked him up, he was trying to take a computer course without actually using a computer, but instead following paperwork he’d been sent.
“I knew the basics of a computer,” he said. “I didn’t know a lot. I didn’t know how to paste, when they tell you to paste something. I’m learning where the letters are. That’s a process. The 55s and over, they don’t know computers.”
But, Simon said, it’s getting harder and harder to get by without them.
“If you can’t type and pull up the Google and pull up the name of the company you’re trying to get a job with — that’s no good,” he said.