Twitter launches NeighborNest program to teach tech to low-income, homeless

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KTVU) - NeighborNest, a new community space staffed with Twitter employees, opened Wednesday in San Francisco's Central Market neighborhood to help homeless and low-income residents access technology, education and training.

Playing off their blue bird logo, Twitter's new center is called NeighborNest, with a birdhouse logo. It's part launchpad, part landing pad for the neighborhood's homeless and low income families to get help on many fronts.

"Life skills, housing, employment and not just a space for individuals to come and learn but a family oriented center," said Twitter's CEO Dick Costolo at the ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday.

Twitter employees will staff NeighborNest and reach out to members of the Tenderloin community via a multi-year partnership with Compass Family Services, according to Caroline Barlerin, head of community outreach and philanthropy for the company.

Barlerin said Twitter echoes Compass' goal of lifting San Francisco families out of homelessness and poverty through a variety of programs, including arming them with the digital skills necessary to succeed in the modern world.

Twitter employees will teach coding for kids, digital citizenship to fight cyber-bullying, and social media seminars to help non-profits.

"We're really seeing this year a renaissance in technology companies stepping up and trying to partner with the city," said Bevan Dufty, who heads up San Francisco's homeless housing efforts, HOPE.

One single mom who stands to benefit is Lindsay Moodie, a resident at one of Compass Family's transitional housing facilities.

"Life in general is all technology these days. pretty much," Moodie said, "Being a single parent is hard sometimes...that's one of the good things about being able to come here and have child care while being able housing applications or do work applications."

The collaboration will add on to a list of programs and services Compass already provides to the community, such as emergency family shelter, counseling, transitional housing, rent subsidies, and mental health services, among others.

The new Twitter-funded family-friendly computer and learning center is located inside Fox Plaza, just across the street from the company's headquarters. Twitter is investing about $3 million into the center which is comprised of technology-focused rooms, including a living room, classroom, meeting room, and study.

"There will be computers and Internet access, with educational programming for kids and job support and skill training for parents," Barlerin wrote on the company's blog.

While Compass is Twitter's first anchor partner, additional partners are expected, according to Barlerin.

Twitter is pledging to donate another $3 million in cash to nearby non-profits in the next four years.

Some are hoping these steps won't sweep the homeless problems into other adjacent parts of the city. Just an hour before the ceremony city crews were across the street, cleaning up and clearing out homeless people before the mayor and Twitter officials arrived.

"How can we really get that prosperity to be shared by the most in need. I think this is a center that will really be a great root in doing that," said Mayor Ed Lee.

Barlerin says Twitter employees have also installed wireless Internet at several shelters and given out more than 150 computers to non-profits in the area, efforts they hope to continue.

The center plans to kick off its summer session programs June 1.