Homeless Given Cell Phones To Help Them Get Jobs, Homes In St. Paul

06/11/2010 03:40 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

In St. Paul, Minn., one organization is taking a bold approach to helping people get their lives back on track: giving the homeless cell phones. According to, each recipient of a cell phone will get six months of service paid for to help them connect with employment and housing opportunities.

Marcy Shapiro is head of the Twin Cities Community Voicemail, an organization founded in 1994 that instituted voicemail systems for homeless community members. While the voicemail boxes allowed the homeless to receive messages, checking the inbox required access to a phone. Now, with cheaper, more reliable technology, the organization wanted to take the next step by providing cell phones to the homeless.

With the help of a $11,750 grant from the St. Paul Foundation, the idea is finally becoming a reality. Twin Cities Community Voicemail will be able to distribute between 30 and 40 cell phones to individuals and families living on the streets.

"The idea is,'' Marcy Shapiro says, "if an employer calls that number, they can answer. If a landlord calls their number, they can answer. If they need a health care provider, they can talk to them, and also that their family and friends can talk to them."

So far, a total of ten homeless individuals or families have received cell phones.

Suggest a correction