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Twitter’s NeighborNest Offers Computer Training to Low-Income Families

The center was built as part of an ongoing deal San Francisco has with companies such as Twitter to help clean up and revive neighborhoods.

by Queenie Wong, San Jose Mercury News / May 21, 2015

(TNS) -- When Compass Family Services starts its summer program for low-income families at Twitter's new learning center in June, Lindsay Moodie will be among the first clients through the door.

"For some people, they don't have the motivation to want to get their lives together by actually coming to a place like this," Moodie said during a news conference at the center.

Twitter on Wednesday unveiled a new 4,000-square-foot center in San Francisco called NeighborNest, which will offer child care, housing workshops, job and basic computer skills training and more to low-income families with the help of local nonprofits.

"These days anyone who wants to be successful in the world, get a job or even search for housing needs to be able to access technology, be comfortable with it and know how to use it," said Erica Kisch, the executive director of Compass Family Services, which helps more than 5,000 low-income families.

Blue and orange balloons filled a computer lab packed with residents, city officials, Twitter employees and others during Wednesday's opening. A hashtag with the words "happytoseeyou" was emblazoned above the front door.

Caroline Barlerin, head of community outreach and philanthropy at Twitter, said in an interview the company spent about six months conducting focus groups, listening to what low-income families said they needed from the center.

"Twitter wanted to do this because we recognize the need of having the residents of the Tenderloin and Market have access to technology, but in addition to technology more resources and more classes," she said.

The new learning center, located at the Fox Plaza across from Twitter's headquarters, is expected to cost the tech firm at least $3 million from 2015 to 2018.

Since the company started working with Compass Family Services on the idea, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo said the concept of the center evolved. "The programs have become much more rich and not just about technology but about volunteers from Twitter coming over here to work side by side with folks from Compass Family Services and our nonprofit partners to teach not just technology skills, but life skills," Costolo said during Wednesday's opening.

NeighborNest was built as part of an ongoing deal the city has with companies such as Twitter to help clean up and revive the Central Market Street and Tenderloin area. In exchange, Twitter received a break from paying the city's 1.5 percent payroll tax on new employees for up to six years.

Other companies such as Zendesk, Yammer, Spotify and Zoosk also took advantage of the payroll tax breaks and are required to give back through community benefits. Created in 2011 amid fears that Twitter would leave the city, the tax breaks were considered a controversial move by San Francisco city officials and even drew protests from hundreds of SEIU Local 1021 members last year during their contract negotiations.

City officials on Wednesday showed support for the corporate partnership.

"Ultimately, what's going to go on here for years is going to be yet again a reflection of more and more examples of how successful businesses can help others to become more successful," San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said.

©2015 the San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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