SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – Many California homeless people may soon get cell phones for next to nothing thanks to a federally-funded program set for approval by the Public Utilities Commission.

Talks of bringing the lifeline program to California have been underway for years, but according to the San Francisco Chronicle, all but the final details were finally hammered out at the end of last week.

The current lifeline program pays the majority of the bill for people under a certain income limit, but has only been offered for land-line phones, not an option for homeless people.

The mobile service, operated by Assurance Wireless, already exists in 36 other states. Under the California plan, individuals receive 250 free minutes of service and 250 free text messages each month. Participants would have to pay a  small fee upfront to purchase the phone, but once fully enrolled in the program, would get that money credited to their account to put toward any overages.

Advocates of the program said this will make it easier for low-income individuals to find work, stay connected to family and even take advantage of other social programs – including checking on the availability of shelter.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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