Press Statements

Lawmakers and New Yorkers Experiencing Homelessness Rally for #Wifi4homeless Legislation in Executive Budget

March 27, 2024

CONTACT: Mariah McGough,


See Videos From Yesterday’s Rally Here

ALBANY, N.Y. — Yesterday, lawmakers were joined by New Yorkers currently or formerly experiencing homelessness at a press conference to rally for budget funding for high-speed internet access in all New York shelters. Advocates released the following statements in response:

“In the 21st Century, internet access is a fundamental right. It’s also a basic need. For our most vulnerable New Yorkers to be cut off from that just because they are in temporary housing is unconscionable. High-speed internet access is as essential to participation in our modern society as electricity was in the 1930s. Our legislation will help New York build a future for the working class where no one is left behind,” said Senator Gonzalez.

“In the digital age, access to the internet isn’t a luxury; it’s a fundamental necessity. Senate Bill S4561A isn’t just about providing WiFi; it’s about empowering individuals in temporary housing with the tools they need to thrive,” said Senator Jackson. “By bridging the digital divide, we’re not only connecting people to information and opportunities but also reaffirming our commitment to equity and progress. This session I look forward to NY ensuring that every individual, regardless of their circumstances, has the opportunity to stay connected and reach their full potential.”

“Providing reliable, high-speed, privacy-preserving internet for people staying in homeless shelters will be an enormous step towards closing the digital divide,” said Daniel Schwarz, Senior Privacy & Technology Strategist at the New York Civil Liberties Union. “With privacy protections at its core, this bill will make it easier for people to safely search for jobs, find permanent housing, participate in remote learning, get healthcare, and receive government benefits — free from heightened surveillance. Everyone should have safe, fast access to the internet, no matter where you live or how much money you have.”

“Accessing the internet should not be seen as a luxury or a perk in our modern era,” said Kassi Keith, a leader with VOCAL-NY. “For those relying on it to monitor their health like me, internet access can be a matter of life and death.”

“Residing in temporary housing should not mean losing connection to society and to important life-changing resources that increasingly only exist online,” said Jennifer Quijano, Director of the Legal Clinic for the Homeless, City Bar Justice Center, and Member of the Social Welfare Committee, New York City Bar Association. “Public benefits applications have moved to a streamlined, app-based process; courts now offer virtual appearances, and legal services providers try to minimize the time and travel burdens on their clients by requiring fewer in-person appointments. Stable internet access is the key needed to unlock the potential that all these resources hold. The consequences of a life without stable internet access can range from social to mental to long-lasting legal consequences. But more than that, it’s about the dignity to have the same access as everyone else to connect with the opportunities to build a better future for yourself and your family.”

“WiFi is a human right in a society where being able to connect to the internet is what’s needed to move forward. So many basic services like applying for SNAP benefits, scheduling a doctor’s appointment, knowing where to go and much more require internet access. I’m proud to cosponsor A5649A with my partners in the legislature and I will tirelessly advocate for this to be included in the final state budget,” said Assemblymember John Zaccaro, Jr.

“It’s widely accepted that internet access is essential. Without it, you can’t stay in touch with friends or family, let alone pursue employment and housing: exactly what we ask shelter residents to do. That’s why I am proud to support the common sense effort by Assembly Member Reyes and Senator Gonzalez to invest in WiFi access at every shelter across our state in this budget. Let’s get it done.” said Assemblymember Emily Gallagher.

“Access to Wi-Fi in shelters isn’t just about connectivity; it’s a lifeline that empowers individuals to stay connected with vital resources, opportunities, and support systems crucial for their well-being and progress” said Assemblymember De Los Santos.

 “The barriers presented by digital inequality cannot be more daunting than those faced by families in homeless shelters. Digital access is needed when seeking housing, health care, employment, communicating with friends and family, or having the tools for schoolchildren to do their homework. We need universal broadband access in all shelters to maximize the opportunity for families to secure the independence and advancement they seek and deserve.” said Assemblymember Steve Otis.

“Broadband internet access is a necessity in our world today. In our homeless shelters, it enables children to do their school work, and their parents to seek employment and permanent living arrangements. It also allows shelter clients to maintain connections with family and friends during a very stressful time in their lives. I support the funding of WiFi throughout the shelter system, so that we do not further disadvantage New Yorkers in need.” said Assemblymember MaryJane Shimsky.


Access to the internet is critical to function in modern society, and there is no exception for people living within our state’s shelter system. Finding housing, employment opportunities, academic advancement, along with accessing legal counsel, crisis intervention services, and support networks are all critical to escaping homelessness and nearly impossible without regular access to the internet. Over 60 organizations from across the State have issued a report calling for A.5649-A/S.4561-A to be included in this year’s Budget in order to ensure internet access to all individuals residing in shelters.


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