FILE - In this Friday, Sept. 16, 2017, file photo, a person uses a smart phone in Chicago. (AP Photo)

B.C. gives smart phones to vulnerable, homeless to access services, connect with family

COVID-19 restrictions have left many public places closed, leaving people without access to internet

Some of B.C.’s most vulnerable people living on the streets will soon be receiving a smartphone from the government, in order to access support services, friends and family while practising physical distancing.

Social Development and Poverty Reduction Minister Shane Simpson announced Tuesday (May 12) that 3,500 smartphones are being doled out to homeless individuals who are facing difficulties connecting with loved ones because public spaces, such as libraries, are currently closed.

“Providing smartphones for people on the street will help create easier access to those services, help people maintain physical distancing, and support people in staying connected to family and friends during this time,” he said.

The phones, being funded through Homelessness Community Action Grant program, can connect to Wi-Fi and include a pre-loaded $10 data card.

ALSO READ: B.C. enacts provincial order to move homeless at 3 large encampments into hotels

Roughly 1,000 smartphones have already been distributed, with 200 provided to those who have been moved to hotels from homeless encampments in Victoria and at Oppenheimer Park in Vancouver.

Five-hundred were given to low-income residents living in one of the 4,500 single room occupancy hotel units in the Downtown Eastside.

“These smartphones are lifelines and a long-term asset for people living in the Downtown Eastside and SROs,” said Wendy Pedersen, coordinator of the Downtown Eastside SRO Collaborative.

“With the smartphones, we are also able to co-ordinate the drop-off of thousands of bars of soap, food and hygiene supplies to people and connect with people about COVID-19 symptoms and testing.”

Community organizations that provide services and supports to vulnerable people have been tasked with distributing the rest of the cellphones.


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

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