The province of British Columbia is set to hand out 3,500 smartphones with data plans to homeless and vulnerable citizens, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Social Planning and Research Council of BC (SPARC BC), along with the Homelessness Community Action Grant program and 7-Eleven, secured the smartphones at cost with $10 data cards from the latter.
The government says the smartphones with data plans will “provide vulnerable people better access to vital online resources and services, including arranging medication and safe supply delivery and virtual doctor meetings.”
“The need for internet connectivity has never been as important as it is right now. For people who are experiencing homelessness, the closing of public spaces like libraries due to COVID-19 has reduced connectivity options and created barriers to supports and services,” said Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, in a statement.
So far, 1,000 smartphones have been handed out, with 200 given to those who have camped at Oppenheimer Park in Vancouver and Pandora Avenue and Topaz Park encampments in Victoria.
Telus also donated SIM cards and $0 rate plans with unlimited nationwide talk and text and 3GB of monthly data, as part of 500 smartphones handed out to low-income residents in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
“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,” added Simpson.
The Social Planning and Research Council of BC will distribute the phones with funding from the province to the following cities in B.C:
- 100 Mile House
- Burns Lake
- Campbell River
- Fort St. James
- Gabriola Island
- Grand Forks
- Maple Ridge
- Penticton and surrounding area
- Pitt Meadows
- Port Hardy
- Prince George
- Prince Rupert
- Salmon Arm
- West Kelowna
- Williams Lake