The idea of giving homeless people free cell phones may initially sound bizarre. To an extent, it’s reasonable to assume they’d rather have a roof over their heads than dwell under a bridge with a cell phone in their hands.
However, as we witness the rise of the digital era and more and more companies rely on online recruitment platforms, a free cell phone could ultimately signal a way out of skid row.
But a cellphone additionally grants dispossessed persons access to a plethora of other benefits, such as emergency services and an expeditious way to reach family members and acquaintances.
Thankfully, the U.S. Government presently sponsors a couple of programs designed to help homeless and low-income individuals stay connected through mobile devices and data (at times, _for free_), provided, of course, that they meet some conditions.
Programs That Offer Free Cell Phones for Homeless
At the moment, these are the existing programs available to the homeless population:
1. Lifeline Program
The Lifeline Program is an FCC (Federal Communications Commission) initiative that has been active since 1985 with the intended goal of making communication services more accessible to the underprivileged.
In recent times, the program has been heavily invested in bringing homeless people into the digital fold by offering them phones and SIM cards for free, as well as a zero-cost data plan with minutes and text messages included.
2. ACP Program
The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) was established with the express purpose of providing wireless internet connection to households with poor income.
It’s an FCC endeavor just as much as the Lifeline Program is and provides up to $30 discounts on ISP plans ($75 for families living in qualifying Tribal lands).
3. Lifeline + ACP Combo Program
As a Lifeline beneficiary, you can also opt for the ACP simultaneously.
In many cases, you may not even need to apply again. Still, you’d have to reach your ACP or Lifeline provider to see if they have any services available under the ACP and/or alternatives for implementing further discounts to your existing one.
You may likewise benefit from the ACP if you are not on a Lifeline plan but on the ISP’s own low-income program, as long as this provider is also a Lifeline participant.
Ways to Get a Free Cell Phone for Homeless
To lodge your Lifeline/ACP application, you must fulfill specific criteria and submit the appropriate evidence. You’ll be asked to fill out an eligibility form, oftentimes found on the provider’s website.
Requirement Eligibility For Getting a Free Phone for Homeless
Customers who wish to qualify for Lifeline’s free phone benefit must not surpass 135% of the federal poverty guidelines or should at least participate in one of the following assistance programs:
- SSI (Supplemental Security Income)
- FPHA (Federal Public Housing Assistance)
- SNAP / Food Stamps
- Veterans & Survivors Pension Benefit
- TANF (Tribally-Administered Temporary Assistance to Needy Families)
- Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance
- Tribal Head Start
- FDPIR (Food Distribution Program or Indian Reservations)
In order to maintain your benefit, you must use the free Lifeline service once every 30 days at least.
Concerning ACP, your household income must be 200% or less than what’s stipulated in the federal poverty guidelines. Also, apart from the assistance programs outlined above, these other ones may qualify you:
- Pell Grant
- Free & Reduced-Price Lunch
In this case, only one discount is allowed per household.
For the record, Neither the Lifeline nor the ACP benefits can be transferred to another person.
Requirement Documents For Getting a Free Phone for Homeless
To begin your “free cell phone for homeless” application process, you’ll need to gather some documents first. Essentially, you ought to submit the following:
- Proof Of Identification: This could be your driver’s license, birth certification, permanent resident card, SSN (Social Security Number), or naturalization certificate, among many others
- Proof Of Address: Some typical examples of proof of address documents you can provide include a utility bill, mortgage, or payslip. Some other documents can work as both proof of identity and address (e.g., driver’s license)
- Proof Of Assistance Program Participation: You may use your notice letter or any other official document attesting to your enrollment
Application Procedure For Getting a Free Cell Phone for Homeless
At this juncture, choose from one of the many providers that partake in the Lifeline program and apply from their website. Most of these providers have an exclusive section dedicated to both Lifeline and ACP, and the procedure is, for the most part, pretty self-explanatory.
To begin, you’ll be prompted to enter your zip code to ascertain whether the company operates in your area. Once that’s done, you’ll be redirected to a form page where you must enter several details.
These details include:
- Your Personal Information_ (name, date of birth, and last four digits of your SSN)
- Your Household Address _(you may be asked if it’s a temporary or permanent address)
- Your Mailing Address _(if it’s not the same as your home address)
- Your Income _
- The Assistance Programs _you’re currently in
In many cases, the company will ask you to choose your plan and phone right then and there.
Lastly, after being made aware of the usual disclosures, you’d need to agree to the terms and conditions before sending the form.
Regarding ACP, the procedure is roughly the same as Lifeline. While you could theoretically apply right from the pertinent FCC page, most service providers will facilitate a form on their website.
Remember, however, that the ACP plan mainly covers discounts for your internet plan and, in many instances, a “free” tablet (in exchange for a contribution). Regardless, as we stated earlier, you can make the most of your Lifeline + ACP combo.
Activation Process After Getting Free Phone for Homeless
Once you receive your free cell phone and SIM card, insert the latter into your phone’s SIM slot. Next, we suggest charging your handheld until your battery reaches 100%.
Your phone must have a physical power button either on the side or the back. Locate it and long-press until you see a logo on the screen (usually of your phone model and/or brand). Wait for the phone to boot, and you’ll be greeted with a “Configuration Wizard,” by which you can set up your Wi-Fi, apps, and features, as well as manage software updates.
If your mobile data is not enabled by default, you have two options:
- Go to your settings page and look for your “Connection” options (or similar).
- Go to your notifications panel by swiping down from the status bar. You should be able to find a “mobile data” button, symbolized by two arrows (one facing upwards and the other downwards). Tap on it, and it should change color.
Afterward, you should be able to see arrows next to the signal meter and a “letter” signifying the network speed (E, 3G, 4G, H+; 5G, etc.)
Best Providers That Offer Free Cell Phone for Homeless
In this section, we’ll cover some of the leading data providers that are part and parcel of Lifeline/ACP.
- Assurance Wireless: Assurance is a service provider subsidized by the Lifeline Assistance Program. It was founded in 2009 and had been using the T-Mobile network since 2020. Its H.Q. is in Warren, NJ, and operates in over 43 states.
- AirTalk Wireless: AirTalk is a service courtesy of AirVoice Wireless, LLC., specially catered to households that meet Income Poverty Guidelines thresholds to access Federal or state support programs. It has been in the wireless business since as far back as 1999 and covers mainly the East Coast and parts of the West.
- SafeLink Wireless: SafeLink Wireless is a Florida-based service under TracFone Wireless, Inc., which is part of the Verizon family. It has been supplying low-cost services for more than 25 years and is currently a proud Lifeline participant. It claims to cover 99% of the U.S. population.
- Access Wireless: Access is a Kroger Wireless service provider specifically dealing with Lifeline and ACP applicants. Kroger was founded in 2005 and is headquartered in Newport, KY.
- Cintex Wireless: Cintex Wireless is a provider of HTH Communications – which also owns AirVoice Wireless and AirTalk, among other brands – that offers plans in the context of ACP and Lifeline programs, with coverage spanning all 50 U.S. states.
- Easy Wireless: Easy Wireless has been offering affordable phone services and devices through Lifeline and ACP for over 20 years. Today, they have retail stores in over three states: Arkansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma.
- enTouch Wireless: enTouch, founded in 2012, is powered by Boomerang Wireless and services 34 states. Their main Headquarters is located in Dallas, TX.
- NewPhone Wireless: NewPhone is another HTH Communications, LLC program, likewise focused on offering products within the framework of ACP and Lifeline.
List of Free Cell Phones Offered for Homeless
Some of the most notable Lifeline/ACP “free cell phones for the homeless” include:
- Samsung Galaxy S7, S8, S9, A50, and A03s
- Apple iPhone 7 and 8
- Wingtech REVVL V Plus 5G
- Schok Volt
- Unimax U696CL
- Motorola G Stylus 5G
- Coolpad Belleza
- OnePlus Nord N200 5G and N10 5G,
- LG Stylo 5, Stylo 6, G7 ThinQ, G8 ThinQ, and V40 ThinQ
- Google Pixel 2, 2 XL, 3, 3A, 3XL, and 4.
This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but hopefully, we could highlight some of the most common picks. Naturally, flagship models are excluded, but the ones available should get you through the day for the most part.
Alternatives Ways To Get Free Phones for Homeless
Luckily, if you don’t qualify for a “free cell phone for homeless” program like Lifeline, you’ll still have other options to follow, though these may admittedly not give you a new or even workable phone.
Craigslist is a nice place to start. Some of these yard sales present old and/or damaged phones at a bargain price. If you push the negotiation far enough, some people may actually allow you to get away with a free phone that you can then try to repair.
NextDoor is another neat medium for finding phones others might want to get rid of. This social network allows you to contact people within the neighborhood, so you won’t need to travel countless miles to reach a phone owner.
Lastly, some carriers will go out of their way to offer free phones when you acquire a plan from them. It may not be the ideal alternative if you want a no-strings-attached free solution, but if you have some money saved for a rainy day, this might be a worthy investment.
Advantages Of a Free Phone for Homeless
As we wrap up this guide, we can summarize the advantages of Lifeline/ACP’s “free cell phone for homeless” scheme as follows:
- You get enticing mobile plans with unlimited calls/SMS and generous amounts of data (GB) per month.
- You can bundle your Lifeline plan with other ACB benefits.
- You obtain a _brand-new _phone with all its included accessories and a warranty to boot.
- You’ll own an all-encompassing device with seamless access to a wide array of quality-of-life tools and functions, ranging from productivity to entertainment apps.
How do free phones help the homeless stay connected?
In this day and age, having a cell phone has turned from a luxury into a necessity. Homeless people who wish to kickstart their employment journey or have easy access to essential services cannot afford to be offline.
Is there a limit on how many times I can apply for a free phone?
So far, the benefit is limited to one phone per household, and Lifeline benefits cannot be accrued. If you lose your phone or it’s stolen, you have to notify your company’s “customer care” department. You are then given 45 days to activate a new phone.
Can I upgrade my free phone?
Some companies allow you to _buy_ an upgraded device. It bears clarifying that you must pay for the upgrade.
Can I choose my own phone and carrier for a free phone program?
You have lots of alternatives at your disposal in terms of phone models and carriers. Nevertheless, each of the providers outlined above uses a specific carrier.
Are there any fees associated with a free phone program?
Lifeline and ACP benefits providers levy no registration fees when you apply for a free phone.
Can I apply for a free phone if I am not currently homeless but struggling financially?
There is no homelessness requirement for filing a free phone application, though homeless people are evidently included within the category of people who may qualify.