It's 2009, it's okay for homeless people to have phones

Apparently some people are pissy that the homeless person getting a meal dished up by Michelle Obama owns a phone. Snopes dismantles the snarky email (the meal kitchen isn't even government funded!) but also points out that for the newly homeless, having a phone is a pretty handy tool for helping them get a job and a home in the future.
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24 Responses to It's 2009, it's okay for homeless people to have phones

  1. Anonymous says:

    >”Silly 穢多; Cellphones are status symbols for >society’s elite, not for the serfs. How dare you >contravene sumptuary laws!”

    Cellphones as status symbols for the elite? Hardly. Cellphones have been status symbols for many young men in thug culture, just like pagers were before them. It’s not uncommon to see a woman on welfare who provides shelter for her ‘homeless’ thug boyfriend to be walking around in expensive Nikes along with a top of the line cell phone. Not to mention the hideous looking huge rims on the cars that cost more than the car they are on and the house where it’s parked.

  2. Blaire says:

    I just got a new Palm phone and donated my old Palm Treo to a charity. I hope the person who gets it enjoys using it. And just a reminder, you can use a PDA phone without a PDA plan. Taking a photo on a PDA phone, a la the controversial picture above, does not necessitate an expensive data package. Perhaps people should consider donating old PDA phones, laptops, PCs, etc., and stop judging the end users of said charity. I don’t understand the mentality that people are worthy of your unwanted food or clothes, but not your dated, unwanted hardware.

  3. Mitch says:

    I saw a homeless guy in the library trying to figure out how to download music to his Ipod.
    Oh, the scandal! A homeless man with an Ipod!

    Actually, I was happy to see that he had it. It’s
    a nice portable way to enjoy music. Why should he
    have to live an austere existence with only the
    barest necessities because he cannot afford a home
    as I can?

  4. Blaire_M_S says:

    I just got a new Palm phone and donated my old Palm Treo to a charity. I hope the person who gets it enjoys using it. And just a reminder, you can use a PDA phone without a PDA plan. Taking a photo on a PDA phone, a la the controversial picture above, does not necessitate an expensive data package. Perhaps people should consider donating old PDA phones, laptops, PCs, etc., and stop judging the end users of said charity. I don’t understand the mentality that people are worthy of your unwanted food or clothes, but not your dated, unwanted hardware.

  5. dculberson says:

    For some reason, people are obsessed with trying to make homelessness 100% the fault of the homeless person. I guess to make it feel less like it could happen to them. I’m guilty of it, too.

    So it’s irresistible for some people to shout “see! He spends money on a phone instead of a house!” or “he’s really rich and pretending to be poor!”


  6. rAMPANTiDIOCY says:

    there was an article recently (on here i think, considering i don’t read anything else) about homeless people with laptops. surely these technologies are major catalysts for getting the homeless back on their feet. it’s easy to be insensitive when you are rich.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I volunteer at a private (church-run) soup kitchen sometimes. I would like to point out that not only are the volunteers encouraged to hang out with and eat the same food as everyone else, but that other people from the community do as well sometimes.

    Of course, if word got around that that Michelle Obama were serving food there I imagine that half the town would show up. :) It just takes one volunteer with a cell phone to text a bunch of friends or post something on a social site…

  8. PrettyBoyTim says:

    I find this kind of thing bizarre. Phones are considerably cheaper than houses – it makes perfect sense that someone who can’t afford to buy or rent a house might be able to afford to buy or rent a phone.

  9. RedShirt77 says:

    My cell phone bill may make me homeless some day.

    This guy is just as likely a driver or a worker at the shelter, but who is to say he didn’t get the phone before he lost his job and home.

    The idea that this guy is for some reason living the homeless lifestyle because of all the free food and cool cell phones is just silly, and sad.

  10. moniker42 says:

    Not to mention that having a cell phone has become essentially a necessity. I would not be at all surprised if land lines are sooner rather than later entirely phased out, despite the uh, cancer.

    Point being, most homeless people, with no cars, no apartments, having a cell phone is one of the only things keeping them in touch with the world at large at all, and if you don’t have a phone number on a resume, you might as well not even submit one.

    Re: that being a blackberry curve: In New York City you can get all kinds of things that fell off the back of a truck for damn cheap.

  11. Anonymous says:

    @6 I see your point that having a phone while homeless is likely a plus, but cells are not a necessity. I have never had a cell (I know, someone without a cell on a gadget blog!?) and I get along just fine with my landline. it’s a personal preference surely, I don’t want to be able to be contacted 24/7, and people don’t call landlines at 2 am when they know they might wake up the entire house.

    and no, I’m not old. I’m 29, work in IT, subscribe to FiOS internet, own an mp3 player, hdtv, game consoles and beastly PC.

  12. techdeviant says:

    My brother in law is recently homeless, but we pay for his cell phone so we can keep tabs on him. And not only that, but you can’t really expect someone to find a job if employers can’t call them.

  13. The Lizardman says:

    As snopes points out – what proof do we have that this is a homeless person to begin with? It isn’t my thing but I could certainly see almost anyone there with a phone wanting to take that picture (staff, donors, etc – with a VIP like that present most, if not all, of the top players for that place would be present)

    As for cell phones for the homeless is there a charity service that takes old phones and re-ditributes them? I have donated old phones to services that give them to battered and abused women but have not seem a similar service for the homeless. If it pisses these sort of people off this much I would happily provide some my early adopted past phones to the homeless.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Newsflash! If you’re homeless, you might not be the best judge of how to spend money.

    My spouse used to house-sit for the uber-rich… feeding the dogs and mucking the horses, checking the pool PH and whatnot. You are more likely to find a TV and a DVD player in an inner city slum apartment than in the summer home of a multi-billionaire.

    I am speaking from personal observation of both habitats. I find it totally believable that a undernourished homeless person would have a state-of-the-art phone or laptop. If they were equipped to manage their lives optimally, most of them would not choose homelessness. That’s the whole argument for helping them, really.

  15. BloggerEsquire says:

    First, Miriam’s Kitchen lists FEMA as a donor. (Federal Funding). So that meal may have been partially paid for by federal funds. Secondly, and more pertinent to the argument, is that even if Miriam’s Kitchen is a 100% privately funded organization, it is still conceivable, and probably likely, that government entitlements (i.e. unemployment, welfare, etc.) are paying for the cell phone.

    If that person is truly homeless, and spends his money (assuming he is male) on a phone, as opposed to drugs or alcohol, good for him. As it has been argued, a cell phone may be a key factor in finding employment. Thus, although questioning the propriety of government funds subsidizing cell phone plans (and evidently blackberry cell plans at that) for homeless persons may be a reasonable objection, there are good reasons to disagree.

  16. how DARE he says:

    The comment about how rich people sensibly spend their money on stables full of horses, kennels full of dogs, and professional lackeys to take care of everything for them, rather than squandering it on silly things like cell phones or a TV …

    speaks for itself.

    Some people just HATE POOR PEOPLE and will seize any opportunity, real or imagined, to denounce them. Kicking the designated scapegoat has been a popular pastime since people were swinging from trees.

    If you think The Government should micromanage what welfare beneficiaries do with their feeble incomes, or that free kitchens should somehow screen out visitors who possess more than a few threadbare rags to cover their icky parts, all I can say is go for it.

    If you can manage to make the world that much more hateful and vicious, and other people let you, then we all certainly deserve to live in the resulting psychic stinkhole.

    Poor people will continue to cope, and do the best we can in whatever environment we find ourselves in, without apology, and without bothering to try to understand your absurd morality, just like we always have.

  17. Anonymous says:

    @7 Seriously? Yes, if you have a land line, it’s easy to get along without a cell phone. Yet… HOW IS A HOMELESS PERSON GOING TO HAVE A LANDLINE? By definition, they don’t have a home in which to install said line.

    Also, a landline costs what… $20-30 a month? How is that any better than a prepaid cell phone?

  18. Tensegrity says:

    @14 Excellent point.

    Also, if these people complaining about homeless people with cellphones ever actually tried to help someone other than themselves, they would know that it is not only homeless people who go to soup kitchens, food pantries, etc. There are plenty of poor people in America who may have homes and jobs but still need these services to survive.

  19. Anonymous says:

    I was addressing the comment of cell phone necessity in the general sense (ie, everyone), and not just about homeless people, even said it’s probably a plus for them.

    even still, necessities are food, water, and shelter, not cell phones. maybe it’s just semantics, but cell phones weren’t ubiquitous until several years ago, and civilization seemed to grind along just fine for thousands of years prior to their existence.

    but thanks for your outrage over my comment, I always enjoy when my typing results in that.

  20. Almost Homeless says:

    On a Blackberry you can send and receive text, email and voice. This guy has an office in his pocket! A lot of people who need a meal or stay in shelters work. Are you going to get a better job if you don’t have a phone# and an email address? Who knows how or why he has this phone but I’m glad that he does. His family can find him, he can get better work and he can publish a blog!

    I try to remember that in this no-safety-net world that we have been creating that we are all closer to being in that soup line than we realise.

  21. Marlet says:

    Thats just wierd but i can see how this has happened, what i want to know is where they go and charge their phones because if they are homeless they wont have any mains electricity etc
    Free iPod | Free iPhone

  22. bardfinn says:

    I read the reactions from affluent right-wingers but all I can see is:

    “Silly 穢多; Cellphones are status symbols for society’s elite, not for the serfs. How dare you contravene sumptuary laws!”

  23. foberry says:

    Simple cells are so cheap (pre-paids can be had for less then $10, sometimes 5) and like Joel said, they are instrumental in keeping the homeless alive, especially in cold places like NY. Social workers use them to keep track of the wellness and location of the homeless population. Homeless people often have other friends (if not fellow survivors) who keep tabs on them as well.

  24. JoeKickass says:

    That does appear to be a blackberry curve (comparing it to mine) and not a $10 disposable as posited by Snopes.

    However, as Snopes said, there is no reason to assume this person was (is) homeless or poor. There are a lot of possibilities, but sadly as is the nature of the Internet, someone will always jump to the most damning conclusion first.

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