Many states through the federal Lifeline program give low-income families free cell phones with many minutes and texts. There is new program, Mobile4All that helps homeless and very low-income people in Santa Clara County get free state-of-the-art Nexus 5 smartphones with reduced rates through a program developed by the Community Technology Alliance (CTA).
Mobile4All is available through a partnership with Better World Wireless for "case managed clients" who have been under case management for at least two months.
The clients get a new Nexus 5 smartphone and can choose from $30 month for unlimited voice/text and .5GB of date or $40 for 1.5 gigabytes, and unlimited text and talk. The Nexus 5 smartphone has a 4.95” 1920x1080 (445 ppi) touchscreen, 2300 mAh battery and 8 MP camera it originally sold for $349.99 or more.
Homeless people with a large smartphone then can look for jobs, send emails, look for places to live and use helpful smartphone apps.
CTA highlighted the story of a homeless woman Sandra who after attending a job application workshop, received two text messages and two phone calls from an employer asking her to interview for a position, using a free phone through Lifeline services.
Community Technology Alliance has two offices in San Jose and Philadelphia. Their goals are to use technology and data for good to help public housing, support services and develop strategies to move families out of poverty.
If you qualify for a Lifeline subsidized government cell phone, you may have to show proof of your income. In recent years, the service was extended to include those who live in boarding house. Often those who already receive social services are eligible for assistance.
If you don't qualify for Lifeline programs. Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile are very competitive. For example with Boost mobile you can get 2GB of high-speed data for $30 a month when you sign up for Auto Re-Boost it includes unlimited voice, unlimited text messages and unlimited data. You do have to buy a compatible 4G LTE smartphone. Currently, you can get $15 off the Moto G Pre-owned Phone for a Limited Time Only at Boostmobile.com.
Virgin Mobile offers 4G unlimited data, and with no contract with small amounts of data for as low as $35.00 a month.
Assurance Wireless offers the California FREEdom Plan for those 26% of Californian that live below the federal poverty line with free unlimited voice and text.Assurance Wireless is available in 40 states with varying amounts of free minutes or text messages. Eligible residents can apply for Assurance Wireless by calling (toll-free) 800-395-2171.
SafeLink Wireless also offers low-income families free cell phones with text an d minutes. Are eligible for and currently receive benefits from the public assistance program(s) identified in the application form, or that they have income at or below the designated eligibility level.
ReachOut Wireless is working on discounted data plans with unlimited voice and texts. Their Broadband Lifeline Pilot Project that will study the effects of varying subsidy amounts, usage limits and access to digital literacy in certain areas of Ohio, Michigan, Iowa, Nevada, California, Louisiana, Mississippi, and New Jersey. The service includes unlimited voice and text messages and 5GB of data for $60-$65 a month. The customers may have to pay from $60 to $129 for a data compatible smartphone.