Free or Affordable Phones For the Homeless
Folks who have found themselves unemployed during these tough economic times, or otherwise down on their luck, may be able to take advantage of some opportunities to get free or reduced-price cell phones and service.
Assurance Wireless is a service provided by Virgin Mobile. It's currently available in 39 states to people who qualify for certain government assistance programs or if total income per household meets state requirements (requirements for Assurance Wireless eligibility vary by state). If eligible, the plan includes a free phone, 250 free minutes and 250 free text messages. Assurance Wireless's website claims that users will not be charged any activation fees or have to commit to any type of contract. There are also options to add additional minutes and texting for a small monthly fee. Users must regularly stay in contact with Virgin Mobile to reactivate their eligibility and certain conditions apply. Anyone interested in receiving an assurance wireless phone can fill out an application online or by calling 1-888-898-4888.
ReachOut Wireless is provided by Nexus Communications Inc. It may be available to individuals who qualify for government assistance programs or whose household income is at or below 135% of the poverty level of most states. Eligible subscribers will receive a government subsidy in the form of free minutes. They offer both landline plans and cell phone plans, although only one is provided per household. Subscribers are required to re-certify annually. They also offer an affordable pre-paid plan that is unrelated to Lifeline (see information about Lifeline below) For more information, the number for ReachOut Wireless is 1-877-870-9222
While some people have voiced objections to providing homeless and underprivileged individuals "on the taxpayers' dime," they may not be aware that both of these programs are actually made possible through Lifeline, which is supported by the Universal Service Fund. The USF was created as part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, and requires service providers to donate part of their revenue to the fund, which goes toward helping low-income individuals gain access to phone service. Access to phone service is important for individuals for job seeking and holding a job, to use for emergency medical help including 911 services, and to help ensure safety. Some states even have a shelter hotline that homeless people can call to find somewhere to stay for the night... if they have a phone.