Google announced that they will be handing out free cell phones and free voicemail to all the homeless in San Francisco, working with shelters and homeless outreach programs to distribute the phones. I think this is a fabulous idea and I'm interested to see how it works out. The one thing that was really clear to me when I was volunteering with homeless women was that a big part of their situation was the isolation that being homeless creates. No phone is a big issue in keeping people from being hired for jobs as well as being able to open a bank account (the other issue is no mailing address). And while naturally there will be those people who would use the phones for illegal activity such as running drugs, etc. there will still be others who will truly benefit from this.
What most people don't realize is that a lot of the homeless out there would much rather pick up there lives and get a job, find a stable place to live and be off the streets. It's when they are given the tools they need to break down the walls of isolation that the lack of money creates in this society that these people are then able to lift themselves up. Simple things like clean clothes, showers, free medical attention, computer and internet access, help with writing a resume and yes, phones...a means of communication with the rest of this fast paced society that is more interested in making sure that they take care of themselves. Who cares about anyone else, right? Me, me, me. The matra of our consumer driven society.