Charity distributes free smartphones to the homeless.
Thousands of homeless people in the U.K. will be given free phones to combat social isolation thanks to the charity Crisis, which will give away £700,000 worth of devices and data over the course of the next year as part of a two-year partnership with Tesco Mobile, a company which will also be giving out headsets and credit. Advocates for the homeless community have noted the ever-increasing issue of digital exclusion among vulnerable populations, including the U.K.’s 300,000 homeless citizens. It is especially difficult for these individuals to find the means to search for employment and obtain credit to make purchases.
“Access to phones or to the internet has been vital for so many people throughout the pandemic to stay connected, yet it’s something we know people experiencing homelessness often don’t have, and this adds to feelings of isolation and anxiety,” explained Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis. “During lockdown, we provided 1,000 mobile phones to clients to ensure they can continue to access support digitally, reconnect with family and friends and find somewhere safe and settled to live online.”
Other services have been offered to the homeless during the crisis, including portable showers, meals, transportation and more. These have been sparked by increased worldwide unemployment and an inability for many to pay housing fees, which has forced them onto the streets.
In July, The San Francisco Board of Supervisors signed off on a building deal to include 145 micro studios as ‘permanent supportive housing’ units. The building’s micro studios are part of the city’s ongoing effort to open more than 1,000 new permanent supportive housing (PSH) units by the end of 2024. Individuals experiencing homelessness will be referred for housing in these units by the city’s Coordinated Entry System.
Sarah Owens, the mayor’s deputy press director, explained of the project that “individuals who live in PSH units generally allocate between 30-50 percent of their income toward rent, with the remaining amount covered by multiple subsidy programs that support PSH in San Francisco.”
Mayor London Breed, who grew up in San Francisco public housing, was elected on a promise to provide 1,000 more beds by the end of 2020. The city currently houses over 10,800 homeless people in PSH units.
The Georgia-based nonprofit group, Love Beyond Walls, was busy setting up dozens of hand washing stations throughout the state between March and May. Terence Lester, the organization’s founder who had been homeless himself earlier in life, said he started the “Love Sinks In” campaign with the hopes of “supporting neglected people living in poverty during the pandemic.” He added, “People would say things like ‘I’m fearing I’ll contract the coronavirus because I have nowhere to wash my hands.’” Portable sinks were the perfect solution.
Of the smartphone initiative, Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, said, “We will build on this work and ensure a far greater number of people experiencing homelessness across Great Britain can connect with Crisis and other vital services to help them end their homelessness for good.”