Since 1982, COMEA (Cooperative Ministry for Emergency Assistance) has operated as an emergency homeless shelter for the homeless. They provide housing services, free meals, case management, and limited transportation assistance for anyone homeless or at high risk for homelessness in Laramie County, Wyoming.
COMEA had grown out of their existing network, literally and figuratively, with the facility expansion, they realized coverage was spotty, and connectivity was not always reliable. With both residents and case managers needing a high-speed, reliable network, COMEA needed to have secure connectivity for overall success. When HarborTech was asked by Microsoft to participate in their community development efforts in Cheyenne, Wyoming, they were eager to help. Having worked with other non-profits to improve their internal network infrastructure, they knew they could provide a great deal of value and based many recommendations on successful implementations with their non-profit clients.
Improving the User Experience
COMEA constantly works to change and improve services to meet the needs of their clients, which is one of the reasons why they were interested in pursuing an enterprise-level upgrade to their internal wireless infrastructure. In order to efficiently support many of the administrative functions and programs in place, they wanted a network that could support their day-to-day needs.
Because COMEA operates on a limited budget and limited resources, their current infrastructure was something of a patchwork of hardware that had been donated, including time from volunteers with IT experience. If the network went down or they had a cabling or server issue, they had to wait until a volunteer could come to help them, leaving staff without the ability to run the administrative side of the house.
HarborTech’s Role in the Project
In today’s world, we take high-speed wireless access for granted. For those without access, it can make conducting personal business and professional business cumbersome if the network is slow and unreliable. For COMEA, they wanted their community to have access to fast, reliable network connectivity, and they worked closely with HarborTech to make it happen.
This was an opportunity for HarborTech to help COMEA improve their overall experience by upgrading the technology and infrastructure to meet both current and future needs. A more secure network was at the top of the list, which is necessary for financial and operations functions as well as to apply for grants or participate in audits.
Another requirement was to install two distinct networks; one secure wireless network for COMEA administrators and staff, and one secure network for guests. For staff, they upgraded the security of their network by implementing access permissions, content filtering, and time of use. For guests, their own network enabled them to complete job applications or communicate with family without having to be on the organization’s network.
When HarborTech engineers surveyed the site, they found their existing network was not sufficient enough to cover their newly expanded site, and the number of devices COMEA wanted to have on the network.
“We looked, listened, and learned,” said Noel Soderblom, Strategic Accounts Manager with HarborTech. “Our team went in and examined their facility; we asked them about their challenges and what their current and future needs may be,” Soderblom added. “This gave us the information we needed to assemble a scope of work to satisfy staff and client requirements.”
The final plan involved providing structured cabling, and design and implementation of a wireless, secure network that provides robust, reliable high-speed internet access. It also included 24×7 support to ensure their organization had everything they needed to be successful. HarborTech came up with a new WLAN design and expanded their network coverage by adding several access points. They also installed a new security appliance to limit resident access and ensure their network usage.
The implementation was a success and enabled COMEA to enhance capabilities to support several programs they offer to help residents for whom they provide temporary housing. In order to participate in some of these programs, residents are required to work, volunteer, and develop healthy relationships. The connectivity and access provided by the new infrastructure make it much easier for residents to follow the program as it was designed.
Are you with a non-profit organization looking for enterprise-level connectivity? We can help. Contact us today to schedule a site survey.
For more information about COMEA, or to make a donation, please visit their website.