Connect to the Future

ConnectHomeUSA continued its work and expansion by hosting the 4th Annual Summit in September at HUD Headquarters in Washington, D.C. The Rockford Housing Authority and other Pilot sites throughout the U.S. were invited. This year’s summit brought together 75 participating communities, forming an extensive national network of housing providers, municipal agencies and community stakeholders that are dedicating themselves to digital inclusion. Odessa Walker, Director of Human Services for the Rockford Housing Authority, was the RHA representative and participate of the Summit.

This year’s theme “Connect to the Future!” is a reflection of the goal to help families in public housing connect to the transformative tools of the Digital Age.  These tools will prepare residents for the technology changes that lie ahead and the vast opportunities these changes will bring.  By helping residents “Connect to the Future” entire communities are being transformed, the community of Rockford being one of them.


  • An outstanding achievement and commitment to accelerate digital inclusion through participation in the ConnectHome Initiative.
  • The RHA participation contributed to 37,882 new in-home internet connections across the 28 pilot communities.  RHA is the only pilot community in the state of Illinois. The RHA initiative was completely provided without any HUD funding.
  • Out of the 37,882 RHA has contributed over 500 new in-home connections.  A new audited accounting will be forthcoming from AT&T for all RHA latest connections.


Rockford Housing Authority efforts have consisted of:

  • Creating Digital literacy Classes on site
  • Providing free laptop and desktop computer devices after completion of classes
  • Establishing relationships with ISP’s (internet service providers) to bring low prices and incentives to our residents
  • Employed a Resident Ambassador through Section 3 to teach Digital Literacy Classes




  • Research on digital inequality has shifted toward frameworks that consider multiple dimensions and levels, including social supports and other neighborhood-level factors.
  • Low-income households have lower rates of in-home Internet connectivity compared with higher-income groups. Connectivity rates are particularly low among HUD-assistedrenter households, who are also more likely to depend exclusively on smartphones and other handheld devices to access the Internet in the home.
  • Eighty percent of respondents to the 2015–2016 survey stated that Low-income households are most likely to cite affordability constraints as a substantial barrier to in-home broadband adoption.



When low-income households are able to connect to high-speed Internet at home, they gain the tools to cross the digital divide and access 21st Century opportunities, significantly improving their educational, employment, health, and social outcomes. That is why the focus of ConnectHome is increasing high-speed Internet adoption at home.

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More than 60 million Americans lack the digital literacy skills necessary to take advantage of the resources and services found on the internet, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, NTIA Broadband Adoption Toolkit (May 2013.) For this reason, Internet Service Providers, non-profits and the private sectors are offering broadband access, technical training, digital literacy, programs and devices for residents in public housing units.



Enroll in FREE Digital Literacy Classes, improve your computer skills and qualify for the opportunity to get a FREE computer for your home!
This pilot program is limited to RHA residents with K-12 students and complete the process.

To enroll, contact your RHA ConnectHome Digital Inclusion Coordinator today.
Gani Shidi, Resident Ambassador
330 15th Avenue—Rockford, IL 61104



ConnectHomeUSA is a movement to bridge the digital divide for HUD-assisted housing residents in the United States under the leadership of national nonprofit EveryoneOn. The goal is to connect 350,000 people living HUD-assisted in 100 communities by 2020.

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About: Odessa Walker, Director of Human Services for the Rockford Housing Authority

She has been in the Public Housing industry 7 years where she served as Resident Social Services Coordinator for 2 years, Family Self-Sufficiency Coordinator for 3 years and Director of Education and Training for 2 years. Odessa was responsible for overseeing all resident programs to ensure their success by providing: classroom educational training, implementing programs that addressed employment readiness, financial literacy, self-empowerment, goal setting, and preparation for home-ownership.

Odessa holds certifications as a Family Self-Sufficiency Specialist, Public Housing Specialist and assisted in the development of the nationally recognized Workforce Development Institute which was launched in 2013. She also serves as the Youth Pastor for Mt. Calvary Church of God in Christ and Youth Department Chairlady for Fifth West Illinois Jurisdiction. Odessa believes in creating pathways that allow the families she serves to thrive, be successful on all levels and become self-sufficient.