Charity Providing Voice Mail To Homeless

Friday, February 15th 2008, 5:51 pm
By: News On 6

Many times, homeless also means phoneless.  But a Seattle-based charity is helping out.  The group known as Community Voice Mail is providing the Tulsa Day Center with 500 individual phone numbers with voice mail.  The News On 6's Steve Berg reports it gives the homeless a more even playing field.

Shelter resident Carl Irving says having his own phone number to give employers is purely practical.

"They don't want to keep calling you back.  They want you to be readily accessible," said Irving.

And also avoids the stigma that is often attached to the homeless.

"Sometimes they may call, and if they call and they hear it's from the day center, they may not call you back or something.  You never know," said Irving.

This way sounds just like ordinary voice mail.  But the results can be extraordinary says Anna Landa with Community Voice Mail, which started in Seattle in the early 90's, when there was an excess of start-up voicemail companies

"The Seattle workers center ended up going to one of the voicemail companies and saying hey, how about donating 100 voicemails to us, and we'll see if this will help people.  And within 6 months, I think 70% of those hundred people, the first hundred people found jobs," said Landa.

Now Irving says there won't be any missed opportunities.

"Express Personnel.  I missed a call from them.  I missed a really good job," said Irving.   "Your family can call, basically anyone can call, so you don't miss anything."

Five hundred residents will get their own number, but they expect to be able to serve more than that.

"Typically, there's some turnover so that number can be recycled and given to somebody else after the first person in finished with it," said Landa

The voice mail program is sponsored by the Schusterman Family Foundation.