When a Cellphone Stops Being a Luxury
There are many times I have heard on "The People's Court" where the judge has said that "a cellphone is a luxury and not a necessity." Now I do know where she is coming from and agree with what Judge Milian is saying. However sometimes we must lift the brush we are painting with and make sure we are not painting too broad a swath.
It might seem strange, but perhaps the truly needy are the ones who need the "luxury" of a cell phone the most?
The people who are homeless and living on the street are people, just like you and me, who have needs and desires — and I am not just speaking of a desire to chatter with someone a block away on a cellphone.
If you are homeless and manage to land an entry-level job, you will hit obstacles because there are no regular ways to contact you. After failing to contact you a number of times through numbers at soup kitchens or shelter switchboards, your employer is likely to label you "unreliable" — costing you that job.
A pay-as-you-go or "no contract" cellphone might not cost very much for an inexpensive model and if you do not use it much, might not cost much to operate each month. But, it does give that important contact number for employers, potential employers, future employers, social agencies, and family to keep in touch with you. Some of this can be very important so that you don't feel like you've fallen off the face of humanity.
Granted when you are on the street and near cashless, your calls on the cellphone are likely to be short and to the point: "Hello...I'm fine...I'll meet you at the coffee shop on first and main in half an hour... see you there, you have my number." A person wants to minimize the minutes on the phone if you watch all the minutes you pay for in advance on the phone. Better to make appointments to talk in person for sure.
(image to right from Computer Finance)
...and then there are emergencies... have you noticed how far and in between the pay phones are now? How many folk would let a homeless person use the phone in their business or their personal cellphone even if they said it was a "911 Emergency"? That phone in the pocket could be a life saver.
So while a cellphone might be a luxury for the working poor who have homes and can afford a home phone, for the homeless... that phone might actually represent their home.
"On D.C. Streets, the Cellphone as Lifeline" The Washington Post.
"That Homeless Guy Outside Starbucks? He Probably Has a Cellphone [Cellphones]" 23 Mar 2009 by Gizmodo; Computer Finance.
"Homeless find cell phones no longer a luxury" 23 Mar 2009 CTIA; Smartbrief.
"In America, Even The Homeless Have Cell Phones (Michelle Obama Edition)" 24 Mar 2009 by Nick Gillespie; Reason Magazine, Hit & Run.
"30% to 40% of D.C's homeless use cellphones" 23 Mar 2009 by Conner Flynn; SlipperyBrick.