California poor/homeless to receive free cell phones

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ClairesMommy's picture
Joined: 08/15/06
Posts: 2299
California poor/homeless to receive free cell phones

Impoverished and homeless Californians will soon be able to get free cellphones thanks to the statewide expansion of an initiative called "Lifeline."

The federally funded program has been subsidizing home telephone service for low-income residents since 1985, but as communication technologies have evolved, so too have the needs of the program's recipients.

In an effort to provide them with a more modern and efficient way to communicate with friends, family and potential employers, the state's Public Utilities Commission is expanding the Lifeline program to include mobile
phones as well.

Beginning on Monday, anyone who can prove that his or her annual income is less than $14, 702 will be eligible to receive a cell phone from one of two providers, along with a monthly service place that includes 250 talk minutes and 250 text messages.

"Everything will be different now," said program recipient Romonica Grayson to the San Francisco Chronicle this week. "Now I can finally be sure I will be able to get a hold of people to do what I need to do in a timely fashion."

The Chronicle reports that advocates for the state's homeless population have been pushing for this expansion for three years.

"Having a phone means being able to be called back quickly on job applications and to keep up on appointments for government assistance. Homeless people will now be able to confirm shelter openings without walking miles and potentially missing out on beds" writes The Chronicle's Kevin Fagan.

"Everyone in dire straits can now also stay in touch with family and friends. That may sound simple to those with means, but for those in crisis it can mean life or death."

FCC-subsidized cell-phone plans of this type do exist in other states, but there appears to be no Canadian equivalent as of yet.

In June, we asked readers if you think society should do more to get the homeless connected; 60 per cent responded "yes."


Joined: 04/12/03
Posts: 1718

Beginning on Monday, anyone who can prove that his or her annual income is less than $14, 702 will be eligible to receive a cell phone from one of two providers, along with a monthly service place that includes 250 talk minutes and 250 text messages.

So is this for homeless or anyone who falls under the $14K requirement? I think this a good program. People have no idea how much we have come to rely on cell phones for everything. My daughter had an accident (she's fine) and I got a call from the sheriff on his cell phone. I had already left work and heading toward my other daughter's dentist appt. 50 miles away. Had I not had a cell phone, I wouldn't been notified until about 5 hours after it happened. The ER also called to get authorization to treat. I just can't imagine...

There are just so many things - callbacks for job interviews, making appointments, getting calls from kids' schools, emergencies - that make cell phones such a useful tool.

250 minutes and 250 text message should be enough to use the cell phone for its intended purpose but not enough to just sit and text/talk all day.

Sapphire Sunsets's picture
Joined: 05/19/02
Posts: 673

I think it's a good plan. They have it here, but it's different. Basically if you qualify for assistance or get SSI/SSDI you get one. You can also do the unlimited (phone, text, data) by paying $30/month.

It makes sense if you have no credit, and don't have $$$ to drop on a cell phone every month. Personally, we went from spending $300-$400/month on 5 cells (we both had one, *J* had one, and we paided for my parents too) to one straight talk wireless (that i bought!) with unlimited everything for $45/month.

Alissa_Sal's picture
Joined: 06/29/06
Posts: 6427

I think it's a good program. I don't see a cell phone as a luxury in this day and age any more so than a home phone (and if you're homeless, a cell phone makes a heck of a lot more sense than a home phone!)

KimPossible's picture
Joined: 05/24/06
Posts: 3320

Dh used to work with disadvantaged youth. His old department used to try to put them on a career/job path. There was training involved, help finding certain kinds of funding they were eligable for, finding school programs that would lead to good jobs that they were interested in, stuff like that.

Some of these kids were on their own, homeless, or would couch surf with friends. He said one of the biggest problems was not having a reliable way to stay in contact with them.

I'm totally for a program like this.

SID081108's picture
Joined: 06/03/09
Posts: 1348

Yep, I like it.

AlyssaEimers's picture
Joined: 08/22/06
Posts: 6664

I think that if there was plenty of money and there were not other more important programs being cut, then it would be a good program. However, with the deficits in the trillions, and other more vital programs underfunded, that this would not be at the top of my list of priorities. Not saying that it wouldn't be nice if we could, just that we can not afford everything and some things have to be cut. In my opinion, that this is something that could be cut.