Global solution provider Computacenter has teamed up with Cisco Systems to connect at-risk community members in El Paso, Texas, with essential services.
El Paso Helps is a collaborative effort between Cisco and the city of El Paso’s solution provider of 15 years, Computacenter. The program offers a one-stop portal for social services that is facilitated by Cisco’s networking infrastructure products and Webex.
One of the biggest challenges for individuals experiencing crisis or homelessness is navigating resources and accessing services to meet basic needs. El Paso Helps was designed to help people quickly and simply identify local resources with the click of one button to reach another human, while removing barriers to receiving social services, such as extensive paperwork and applications, while also lessoning the burden on law enforcement, according to Cisco.
For longtime Cisco partner Computacenter, El Paso Helps is an “amazingly quick” way for people to get the help they may need, said Lanett Blum, sector director, South Central region for Computacenter.
“Studies show that most important thing when somebody has a crisis is that somebody responds right away and the fact that you actually see a person makes it so much more personalized,” she said. “People may need help or need answers, and if someone doesn’t pick up, it may be the last time you hear from them.”ADVERTISEMENT
El Paso Helps spun out of the city’s successful pandemic pilot program, the Delta Welcome Center, which worked to centralize services so that homeless individual could access social services during the COVID-19 pandemic. In two years, the center served 5,000 unique individuals, which set the groundwork for El Paso Helps, according to the city.
“It started out with the intent of helping homeless citizens in El Paso and it’s grown to any El Paso’s citizens in need. Now, it covers veteran services, shelter, substance abuse and mental health, [to name] just a few,” Blum said. “The goal is to add more [services] and improve on the program.”
Computacenter got involved at the start of the pandemic and worked quickly to install and set up a variety of nonprofit agencies on the Webex platform. Both Computacenter and Cisco worked to ensure all the disparate platforms connected back to El Paso Helps. From there, Computacenter’s team was instrumental in training the nonprofit organizations on how to use the platform, Blum said.
The biggest obstacle to the project was integrating all the nonprofit agencies into the platform that powers El Paso Helps, followed by training and making sure the agencies — and the contact center agents — knew how the system worked, Blum said.
The Webex-based portal today connects vulnerable populations directly with agencies providing assistance. Right now, the support services include 24/7 street outreach, shelter for homeless individuals, temporary emergency shelter through a new Welcome Center, food, safe place, and COVID-19 assistance through the United Way, Resilience Navigators from the United Way to help for people navigating existing community resources; permanent housing assistance through Rapid Rehousing, and mental health services via Emergence Health Network for access to counseling, addiction services, and veterans care.
“Since 2020, this team of partners – from area nonprofits, to technology leader Cisco, to Computacenter – has stepped up to serve El Pasoans when they needed us the most,” Nicole Ferrini, El Paso’s Climate and Sustainability Officer, said in a statement on the endeavor. “El Paso Helps is an unprecedented effort that builds on partnership and recognizes that no one entity can do this alone. Today we are focused on El Pasoans in the most immediate crisis, such as those experiencing homelessness. The City’s objective is to continue to grow the number and types of services available through El Paso Helps.”
El Paso, for its part, has always been an innovative city with leaders that look for ways to help the community, Blum said. The future plan is to install Webex-enabled kiosks strategically around the city so that more citizens can access El Paso Helps.
Making the program repeatable in other cities throughout the United States, she added, is the next step for Computacenter. “This could be developed in any city,” Blum said. “The long-term goal is definitely repeating this in other major cities — some of the big cities, I think, could really benefit from this.”LEARN MORE: Collaboration & Communication | VOIP and Unified Communications | Video | video
Gina Narcisi is a senior editor covering the networking and telecom markets for CRN.com. Prior to joining CRN, she covered the networking, unified communications and cloud space for TechTarget. She can be reached at [email protected].
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