Digital tablet helps 21-year-old get life back on track after being gifted from Riverside

A Rochdale resident has kick-started his life and enrolled at college thanks to being gifted a digital tablet from Riverside.

Thomas Nelson, 21, from Shepherd Court in Rochdale was gifted digital tablet form Riverside.

The tablet and Mi-fi unit, which is a portable wireless router that connects the user to the internet via a cellular network, has had a life-changing impact Thomas Nelson.

Charitable housing association Riverside has purchased hundreds of the gadgets and technical equipment so residents in Riverside’s supported accommodation across the country can stay connected with the outside world.

21-year-old Thomas said: “It’s brilliant and I never expected to be given the tablet. Since having it I’ve kick-started my life,” says Thomas.

“I’ve enrolled and been accepted onto an Access course in Natural Sciences which I start in September. I’ll then be able to study a degree after that. My dream is to study Astronomy and work in that field, so having the tablet has enabled me to research it and assist me to achieving my goal.

“Like everyone during lockdown I couldn’t socialise with friends so I sat around moping about. Now I have a tablet it has been put to good use – I’m using it to as a learning tool, to keep looking for jobs and educational courses to improve myself.”

Thomas, who intermittently slept rough before coming to Shepherd Court, added: “It’s certainly changed my life for the better as before I was staying in bed and not getting up until late, but now I’m motivated and want to do something with my life. It’s helped me kick-start my life and get into a routine.”

Shepherd Court in Rochdale is Riverside’s supported accommodation which provides safe and supportive accommodation for people aged 16 plus who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

Christine Houghton, Riverside’s service manager at Shepherd’s Court, has seen a positive transformation in Thomas.

She explained: “Gifting the tablet to him has given him a real boost and focus in life, something to aim for. It’s definitely improved his self-esteem and wellbeing.

“It’s unbelievable the change it has had on him – it’s done him a world of good by making him feel more included and has had a significant impact. Hopefully it will continue to motivate him to better places.”

£50,000 worth of digital tablets is being handed out to residents as a lifeline so they can get online and keep in touch with family and friends during the Covid-19 crisis.

Residents of all ages will benefit from the initiative including those in our supported housing services for veterans’ who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, retirement living schemes, and supported accommodation for people who are homeless. The tablet will enable people to get online in their rooms, flats and bungalows while self-isolating from the pandemic.

The digital tablets have either been gifted to people who need them or given to schemes which is then loaned to residents. The project is funded by the Riverside Foundation which is the housing association’s charity that helps people overcome obstacles for a better quality of life.

Andy Cave Riverside’s Project Officer who is managing the roll-out of equipment to residents, with the digital tablet.

Andy Cave, Riverside’s Project Officer who is managing the roll-out of equipment to residents, said: “These digital tablets are a lifeline for many of our customers who are in challenging circumstances, so it will enable them to keep in contact with family and friends as well as being able to check their benefit claims, look after finances and do all the other things we take for granted.

“We worked with EE to get the best deal for the equipment and provide an appropriate data package for residents. It is a vital resource to those that haven’t been able to use the communal lounge due to the government’s social distancing measures and as a result haven’t been able to access the scheme’s Wi-Fi.

“We have listened to what our customers have been telling us during lockdown and we believe this gesture will really help those people in greatest need. It will benefit people of from 18 to 86 and from all kinds of backgrounds, but who have one thing in common in that they have been incredibly isolated, frustrated and lonely during these last two months. We hope residents will feel less socially isolated as they will be able to keep in touch with loved ones.”

Riverside is one of the largest provider of homelessness services in the country, and its Care and Support operation works with over 16,000 customers every year.