By Jim March

I have stepped into the breach, and patience is a virtue. My first couple visits to the Beloved Asheville computer lab for the homeless reminds me how a project can seem overwhelmingly complex and confusing in the beginning. So I take a deep breath, inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale.

First order of business is getting acquainted: with the vision and dreams of Reverend Amy Cantrell and her volunteer staff, with the wants and needs of the visitors coming and going, and with the resources at hand in the computer lab.

I had an inspiring conversation with Reverend Cantrell, who looks to a day when there is a community computer lab, dedicated to serving those who do not have access to the Internet through means of their own. The vision is of a place where there is enough room for enough computers to meet the wants and needs of the homeless community, at a price that is affordable to all.

I also began a conversation with the volunteer staff, who talked about support for their work, too, whether editing photographs, producing videos, supporting micro-businesses, preparing proposals, or connecting with the community through social media.

And every journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step …

Though I am not certain how I might help with some of these longer-term goals, I do know how to check whether a computer is working. So my first order of business was to turn on all the systems (ranging from Apple Macs to PC desktops and portables running a variety of Microsoft operating systems). My check list included:

  • Can I get to the Internet?
  • Can I print a web page?
  • Are the operating systems up-to-date (particularly in view of the latest WannaCry ransomware virus attacks)?

Questions I have for next week’s visit:

  • What security should there be on the computers?
  • Should there be access controlĀ (limiting users to certain use and access privileges)?
  • How many operating systems can we support?
  • What about Linux (particularly Mint or Ubuntu or ???)?

No, actually, my questions need to be how the computer lab can help solve the challenges faced by the homeless. Because without direction, even a million steps might not get me to my destination!

All-in-all, there’s lots of work (and fun!) to be had. And lots more conversations. If you’d like to join me, let me know:, or the Code for Asheville Slack channel, or our Meet-Up.

This article is from the semi-weekly Code for Asheville newsletter. See the rest of this issue here. Sign up for future mailings here.