Once considered a luxury, cell phones have become essential tools for many. Coupled with conditions created by COVID restrictions, the lack of cell phones for the poorest among us has hit a crisis stage.
That’s why SCO (Steinbach Community Outreach) is asking people to donate their old phones to the centre so they can pass them on to people in need.
"We’ve always accepted cell phones but they haven’t come in very often," SCO Executive Director Irene Kroeker said. "Now that we’re in COVID, everything is online and (people) just can’t access any of the services anymore without a cell phone."
Already at a disadvantage when trying to connect with necessary services, those without cell phones have found life incrementally harder since COVID hit.
"It’s all online, EIA, the addictions programs, the mental health programs, applying for apartments, online banking, anything," Kroeker said.
Not only is the absence of a cell phone a barrier to receiving health care and social services, it can contribute to isolation and become a safety issue for connecting to emergency services.
Kroeker said she’s confident there are many in the community who would donate a used phone, if they knew about the program, and thought about how much they could help.
"It’s due to people just not thinking of that particular aspect of being homeless," she said. "They think of people that are homeless and are holding a phone, oh well then they must have some money. That’s not the case at all."
Kroeker said that simply means someone has provided them with a phone at some point, and they use it by accessing free wifi.
Phones that are donated will be used the same way. Kroeker said if it’s necessary for something like a counselling program, the centre will provide minutes, often through Chatter which costs $25 per month.
But the rest are used where there is wifi, at the centre or elsewhere in Steinbach.
Phones are accepted with or without a sim card inside. SCO asks that you delete your personal information and photos and include the phone charger with your donation.
"Just clear your phone and send it to us or bring it over," she said.
Kroeker is hoping that once people realize the need, they will respond.
"We could use about 20 of them right now," she said.
To learn more or to arrange a donation, contact Irene Kroeker at 204-326-7954.