SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) — Phone company workers will be at various San Francisco homeless shelters and senior centers this week, signing people up for free cellphones under a new program launched in California.
The program is funded from the Universal Service Fee in people’s phone bills, which has provided phone service to the poor since the Reagan administration.
Dozens of low-income seniors lined up at the Bayside Senior Housing Center in Chinatown on Wednesday to see if they qualified for a free cellphone with 250 free minutes and 250 texts. Service is provided through Assurance Wireless by Sprint.
“A doctor can text a message and say ‘you missed an appointment’ or ‘you have an appointment scheduled for next week’ at such and such a time. And if someone’s waiting for a space in a homeless shelter, they can be reached by text as well,” said Jayne Wallace a representative with the program.
With the shift away from landlines towards mobile phones well underway, Tina Chung of the Chinatown Community Development Center said the one hiccup is that people can’t have a discounted landline and a free cell phone.
“Especially the seniors,” she said. “They don’t want to cancel their landlines necessarily.”
Chung said one of their main concerns is being monolingual and that with landlines, 911 calls can easily be traced back to their address.