Why do homeless people have cell phones?

Often argued as evidence that the system of government support is failing is homeless people who have cell phones. I have seen memes on social media as well as blog posts questioning how homeless people who ostensibly cannot afford food and clothing can carry a cell phone.

One scenario is presented in the September 13-26, 2012 issue of The Contributor. Jesse Call writes,

His daughter is in the hospital and is about to die. Her blood work shows she has diabetes but does not know it. He has finally landed a job if he can start later today. She might get a job if she can interview tomorrow morning. The river’s about to flood his campsite. She just got assaulted and robbed and needs help.
homeless guy on a cell phone

Health care providers, career counselors and those living on the streets tell The Contributor that having access to a mobile phone is essential for people enduring homelessness, even if it means they will face some criticism from uniformed passersby who question the authenticity of their homelessness because they have a phone.

Federal and state governments have long recognized mobile phone access as a need for those experiencing homelessness and poverty. Governments have teamed up with major cell phone service providers to offer free or low-cost cell phones to people with low incomes under the Lifeline Assistance Program.


“People shouldn’t have to face the decision to pay for phone service or pay for food,” said Jack Pflanz, spokesperson for Assurance Wireless, one of the providers of the Lifeline Assistance Program in Tennessee. “In today’s society, I think it is essential that someone experiencing homelessness has access to phone service.”

It should be remembered by those who are not involved in ministry to the homeless that not all homeless people are shiftless vagrants who would not have a job if “someone gave them one.” The fact is many homeless did have jobs at one point. Currently homeless does not equate to always homeless.

If you live in Nashville, TN, or the surrounding areas you will often see distributors of The Contributor newspaper. New editions are out every other Wednesday. You might not be aware these “sales persons,” always identified by a large, yellow tag, are actually entrepreneurs. They buy their entire supply of papers for twenty-five cents each, then sell them for a dollar each. I usually buy multiple copies from several distributors. Overpaying, aka being a blessing, is common and should be. What seems like small change for a fully employed person is a bounty for a person sharing a one bedroom hotel room just to stay off the streets.

Rather than asking why some homeless guy is able to afford a cell phone, perhaps we should ask, “Why am I not willing to spend a dollar, or five dollars, to help a person who has to work outside, rain or shine, six or seven days a week to afford the most basic needs and stay off the sidewalks at night?” Surely following the example of Jesus’ Good Samaritan requires at least some effort to help the homeless.

Perhaps the real problem is not with the homeless after all.

[Image credit]

Marty Duren

Just a guy writing some things.

  • Jesus said, “you will always have the poor with you…”

    We ought do what we can for people, when we can. And share Christ in the process. He is what all people need more than anything.


    • Marty Duren

      Thx, Steve.