Community Voice Mail: Now the homeless don’t have to be phoneless

Community Voice Mail. CVM doesn’t give you a phone, but it does give you the next best thing: a phone number and free voicemail.

We love to help needy Americans get free government cell phones, but there are some truly needy folks who – for one reason or another — just don’t qualify for the Lifeline Assistance program.

The homeless, for example, don’t qualify because the program’s rules require applicants to have a home mailing address. Since by definition the homeless don’t have homes, this is a huge flaw in an otherwise wonderful program. We’ve repeatedly urged the Federal Communications Commission to fix this flaw, but they haven’t yet acted.

This presents the homeless and other needy Americans with a nearly insurmountable problem. How can you possibly get a job without a phone? How can you find a place to live? How do you find refuge from domestic abuse? Fact is, without a phone, you don’t.

Luckily, there’s now a very interesting solution to the problem. The program is called Community Voice Mail. Community Voice Mail doesn’t give you a phone, but it does give you the next best thing: a phone number and free voicemail.

Here’s how Springwire describes its program: “Through the innovative use of technology, Springwire connects people isolated by poverty to support, services, and opportunities. Community Voice Mail is a Springwire program that enables people to connect to vital resources, and coordinate services across the support network, expanding the community’s capacity to care.”

Community Voice Mail is perfect for people in crisis or transition — the homeless, unemployed, disabled, victims of domestic violence, low income families forced to choose between phones and food, foster children who find themselves homeless when they turn 18, day workers, parolees and many more.

The Community Voice Mail program is expanding rapidly and they now have 50 sites serving more than 40,000 people in 372 cities and towns across North America.

community voice mail map us

Here’s how it works: Working with a Community Voice Mail provider, the applicant is given an instruction card and a touch-tone phone to use. He dials in and records a simple message (something like, “Hi, this is Joe Jones. Please leave a message and I’ll call you back.”). Then he creates his own personal password and, voila! He’s connected.

There’s just one catch. One very small catch. You’ll still need access to a touch-tone phone to check your messages on Community Voice Mail. But after your free voicemail account has been activated, you can check messages from any pay phone or social service agency or from the homes of your friend friends and family.

Community Voice Mail phone numbers are indistinguishable from other local telephone numbers, so employers, landlords and other callers won’t have a clue that it belongs to someone who is homeless or phoneless. There’s no stigma attached, because Community Voice Mail users appear to have their own home phones and voicemail.

How can you qualify for Community Voice Mail? It’s really pretty simple. Accounts are issued based on financial need, lack of reliable phone service, or pursuit of a goal for work, housing, healthcare, or safety from domestic violence.

One thing to keep in mind: As soon as your goal is achieved and you no longer need the number (that is, when you land a job, find housing, etc.), your Community Voice Mail number will be recycled to give to someone else in need. In this way, one voicemail account can help as many as three needy people per year.

As Springwire says, “Community Voice Mail can turn a job search into job acceptance; help an apartment application become a place to live; and keep parents connected to teachers, doctors, friends and family.”

And as says, “This is a great idea and we’re happy to help promote it.”

More information: Community Voice Mail


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  1. If you are going to ask "how do I get a cell phone?" go here instead.
  2. If you are going to ask "how do I get a replacement phone," go here instead
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  1. Pauline Balinski says

    Hello , i keep hearing about free government cell phones how do i get one ? thank you pauline

  2. Pauline Balinski says

    Hello , I keep hearing about free government cell phones but i don’t know how to get one . could you help me please . thank you Pauline