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


Send a Tweet: @NicoleCrescenzi

Like us on Facebook  

CellphonesHomeless

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

Just Posted

A new roundabout has been completed at the intersection of Peatt Road, Brock Avenue and Larkhall Road in Langford. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
New roundabout along Peatt Road completed in Langford

Allows for better turning movements for Langford’s fire trucks, improved safety

The British Columbia flag flies at dusk in front of the B.C. legislature on election day 2020. (Don Descoteau/News Staff)
NDP claims six out of seven Greater Victoria ridings after preliminary results

Mail-in ballots yet to be counted in provincial election

View Royal Coun. John Rogers stands next to an unearthed home heating oil tank. As a way to prevent environmental disasters, he is lobbying for a provincial registration system and mandatory inspection for all above-ground tanks, as well as a requirement to remove any underground tanks not used for a prescribed period of time. (Don Descoteau/News Staff)
Efforts to regulate Greater Victoria home heating oil tanks continues

View Royal councillor part of movement to identify old tanks, prevent catastrophic leaks

Bruce McLean, 91, has published his first novel, The Manana Treehouse, which is inspired by his wife’s experience with Alzheimer’s. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
91-year-old Saanich man publishes first novel based on wife’s Alzheimer’s experience

Former journalist Bruce McLean ‘on cloud nine’ after making fiction debut

Residents enjoy the annual Halloween Trick or Treat on Oak Bay Avenue. (Robert Harwood Photo)
Oak Bay to host series of Winter Markets

No Halloween, Christmas events in Oak Bay Village

(Image by Ulrike Leone from Pixabay)
QUIZ: A celebration of colour

Fall in British Columbia is a time to enjoy a spectrum of vivid colours

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Average daily deaths from virus reached 23 over the past seven days, up from six deaths six weeks ago

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
B.C. driver thought he retrieved a dead bald eagle – until it came to life in his backseat

The driver believed the bird to be dead and not unconscious as it turned out to be

Green party Leader Sonia Furstenau arrives to announce her party’s election platform in New Westminster, B.C., on October 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Green party says it’s raised nearly $835,000 in 38 days

NDP Leader John Horgan is holding his final virtual campaign event

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Oct. 20

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

White Rock RCMP Staff Sgt. Kale Pauls has released a report on mental health and policing in the city. (File photos)
White Rock’s top cop wants to bill local health authority for lengthy mental-health calls

‘Suggestion’ included in nine-page review calling for ‘robust’ support for healthcare-led response

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

Parksville’s Jared Huggan won $75,000 playing BC/49. (BCLC/Photo submitted)
Vancouver Island man $75K richer after purchasing winning lottery ticket at Nanaimo Walmart

Parksville’s Huggan plans to purchase electric bike for partner

Most Read