Homeless people to be given smartphones and laptops for support during pandemic

Homeless people to be given smartphones and laptops for support during pandemic
General public is being urged to support the campaign by donating old mobiles

Thousands of homeless people will be given smartphones and laptops to help them stay informed, connected and able to access support during the coronavirus pandemic.

A two-year partnership, between Tesco Mobile and the homelessness charity Crisis, will see people without homes given £700,000 worth of phones, devices and internet data.

In the first year, the two companies aim to provide 2,500 homeless people with phones, laptops and tablets, while the public is also being urged to hand in their old smartphones or donate to help connect more people.

It is hoped that the technology will make it easier for homeless people to look into housing options, keep in touch with friends and family and access information, services and support.

It will also help them stay aware of public health guidance and updates as the country adapts to the ongoing threat of Covid-19.

During lockdown, Crisis has provided one thousand mobile phones to people helped off the streets and into hotels.

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, said the lack of digital connection during the pandemic has become a “huge challenge”, and that addressing this will support charities’ work during a “really difficult and dangerous time”.

“It’s really clear to us that, as well as the obvious things of not having a house or being able to afford a place to live, which are really awful things that people face when they’re homeless, there’s this sense of isolation and loneliness and the lack of connectivity that people feel as well,” Sparkes said.

“And that’s always been there, that’s something which is really important. certainly to our services – as well as helping people find somewhere to live and a job, we’re also looking at helping to connect them and the resilience that brings.”

Jana, 36, was homeless when the lockdown was announced, having spent five months in a hostel in Doncaster after sofa surfing with friends and family.

She moved into a council flat in April and said having a phone meant she could apply for housing without having to wait for use of the hostel’s communal computer.

She now uses it to keep on top of the news and receives wellbeing calls twice a week from Crisis, which are helping with her depression.

“Without the phone now, I’d be anxious…it keeps me informed, keeps me in the world so to speak, keeps me informed with my friends, my family – I think without it I wouldn’t know half as much as what I do now,” she said.

Tom Denyard, chief executive of Tesco Mobile, added: “We believe passionately that everyone has the right to be connected and that mobile connection brings us all closer to other people, to society, and provides access to essential services.

“For many people living without a permanent home, digital connection is a necessary lifeline.”

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