Most patrons of Cool Aid have access to cellphones. (File photo)

Changing Times: Cellphones are necessary for Victoria’s homeless population

Most people living on the streets still have access to technology

Just because a person doesn’t have a home doesn’t mean they don’t need a cellphone.

In fact, according to staff at the Victoria Cool Aid Society, cellphones have become a necessity to most patrons of their sites.

“When you have no fixed address, you need a phone to figure out if there’s shelter beds, to make it to appointments, and to stay connected with family,” said Christine O’Brien, manager of residential services. “In this world of technology, it’s not a luxury to have a cellphone, not anymore.”

Almost all people who use Cool Aid services have phones, O’Brien said. Most don’t have data plans or even much as far as minutes, but with the use of wifi and apps such as WhatsApp, which allows for free texting and calling, most people don’t need loaded phone plans.

“There’s a lot of pay-as-you-go and prepaid phone cards,” O’Brien said. “I think if you manage it very carefully it can be under $25 per month.”

Any additional internet requirements, such as checking emails, can also be done at the library.

Even if a phone has no plan at all, most models will still dial 911 in an emergency. Cell phones can also be used for upcoming apps, such as Nal-Pal, which can help connect someone witnessing an overdose with someone carrying a Naloxone kit.

READ MORE: UVic to launch app to link drug users with Naloxone kits

Most importantly, however, the phone helps people stay in communication.

“One lady installed an app on a phone called ‘find my friend’ and gave it to her sister,” O’Brien said. “It helped her keep track of her when she wasn’t answering her phone.”

When the sister found out about the app, she actually laughed, O’Brien said.

“She thought it was kind of comforting.”

Cool Aid used to get many cell phones donated before most people had smartphones but hasn’t received any in recent memory.

ALSO READ: City of Victoria looks for emergency shelter options amidst bed shortage

Most patrons are given phones or get refurbished phones in pawn shops or from friends, but more donations are needed.

In Cool Aid’s participation in the Homeless Partner Christmas Wish List program, one of the most commonly requested items was a cellphone.

“It’s not a frivolous thing by any means,” O’Brien said. “It’s connection, and that’s what most people need.”

Times are changing, O’Brien said, and now phones will need to be added to Cool Aid’s list of needed donation items, right along socks, food and underwear.

For more information, or to make a donation, you can visit coolaid.org.

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com


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