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

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusHomeless

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A second wave of COVID-19 is probable, if history tells us anything

B.C.’s top doctor says that what health officials have learned this round will guide response in future

Council talks trash: New garbage bylaw in the works

Draft bylaw to be voted on at Monday, May 25 council meeting

UPDATE: Police oversight agency investigating after shots fired Saturday night in Chilliwack neighbourhood

RCMP reported a ‘distraught male’ fired at police officers on Christina Drive – IIO is on scene Sunday

Prospera Credit Union, Westminster Savings lay off over 100 staff following historic merge

2020 merger was largest credit-union merger in Canadian history

‘Service beyond the classroom’: Gerry Palmer wins UFV award

Palmer has been involved with UFV for more than 30 years, starting as an instructor

Trudeau to seek 10 days of paid sick leave for Canadian workers, says talks are ongoing

Paid sick leave is key to keeping COVID-19 spread under control, prime minister says

Vancouver Island hasn’t seen a new homegrown case of COVID-19 in two weeks

Island’s low and steady transmission rate chalked up to several factors

Eight people arrested in Victoria homeless camp after enforcement order issued

Those living in tents were given until May 20 to move indoors

Andrew Weaver says he was ready to defeat John Horgan government

Independent MLA blasts B.C. Greens over LNG opposition

20 dead in COVID-19 outbreak at Langley Lodge

There were two new cases detected, according to the Lodge’s update

44% fewer passengers flew on Canadian airlines in March 2020 than in 2019

COVID-19 pandemic has hit airlines hard as travel remains low

UPDATE: One person dead, two in critical condition after Highway 1 collision in Langley

A man and woman were taken to hospital in critical condition

Commercial rent relief applications open as feds encourage landlords to apply

Program would see government cover 50 per cent of the rent

COVID-19: B.C. park reservations surge as campgrounds reopen

Keep trying, many sites not reservable, George Heyman says

Most Read