Across the street from Sarasota Housing Authority’s Learning Center, a young woman walks past the clotheslines that stand in every front yard of The Courts public housing complex to two nondescript gray portables. She says that she needs to apply for utility assistance but doesn’t have the proper digital tools at home to get it done. 

Candice McLeod, program manager for the Youth Thrive program at the learning center, approaches her, and the two of them head inside, masks covering their faces.

The center is mainly for students, but it also helps parents and other residents with all kinds of important tasks, from applying for EBT assistance to staying in touch with their children’s schools to accessing financial literacy courses.

That help has been more important since the start of the pandemic.