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Mobile4All – Smartphones Against Homelessness

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Connectivity can be implemented to solve a lot of problems. It helps people find work, love, what do to on a given night or how to fix their gas oven. The thing is though, if you don’t have access to any kind of online platform, that great wealth of opportunities is completely cordoned off. For homeless people, that makes life even harder than it already was, with so many components of daily life moving online, they are becoming more isolated and thereby less likely to find the help they need. Thankfully though there are people out there who are coming up with solutions.

The Mobile4All program in San Jose was set up in order to donate smartphones to homeless people and in so doing help them look for work, find shelter for the night and ultimately, find somewhere to live. Google got involved and donated 150 Nexus 5 devices to the cause, each one outfitted a custom plan and Wi-Fi.

Supposedly, despite not having been active for that long, the scheme is already seeing positive results. Holly Leonard was in and out of homeless shelters, her car and various other less-than-desirable boltholes for over a year before being given a phone. Now she has an apartment and has reconnected with her family. “Before I got a free phone, it was like you’re almost nonexistent.” Leonard said, speaking to the New York Times.

The scheme is still operating on a relatively small scale, but the fact that it’s happening so close to Silicon Valley is encouraging, it’s the technological capital of the world and if it shows a social conscience then it’s likely to spread. There’s a massive income inequality problem in California and very little happening to address it, this is an important first step. Facebook might boast of how Internet.org will elevate less developed nations by bringing them connectivity, but ultimately it’s the profit they’re chasing, and there are plenty of people closer to home who could benefit from easier access to the web.

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There is help coming from some other fronts though. Twitter have developed an app called LinkSF which helps people sleeping rough find nearby shelters and soup kitchens. They also run a scheme to help tutor people on lower incomes in social media usage. Numerous other tech startups are also constantly developing apps that make life easier for people with limited technological access. There’s still a long way to go, but it’s a start.


Some would argue that given the position they’re in, companies like Google and Microsoft should be obligated to help the less-fortunate, especially the ones on their doorstep and it’s extremely encouraging to see it happening in innovative, effective ways, rather than passing, pandering hand-outs. It’s important to remember that homeless people want to be given a better chance of helping themselves, not just donations. Bringing them easier internet access is a brilliant way of doing that. 

Callum Davies

Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @CallumAtSMF

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Mobile4All – Smartphones Against Homelessness Reviewed by Callum Davies on Monday, April 20, 2015 Rating: 5

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