Hi, I’m out scrounging for cans right now, but if you’d like to leave a message, just wait for the beep

When you’re homeless, you’re not just missing a home, you’re missing a home base — some central spot where you can be reached by concerned family or a prospective employer or a clinic with some medical results. Now Google, going beyond “do no evil” to do some good, aims to change that in San Francisco. At a Project Homeless Connect event last night, the search sovereign said it would provide a free permanent phone number with voice mail to every homeless person in the city who wants one. “It just seems exactly like any other voice mail,” said Craig Walker, senior project manager at Google. “There’s no stigma attached to it that ‘hey, this is a temporary thing’ or ‘this is an 800 number.’ It’s really just a local number owned by the user. … We’re firm believers in the power of technology to improve the daily lives of individuals and communities as a whole, and we recognize that access to phone and voicemail services is one way that Google can help San Francisco’s homeless stay connected with family, friends, social workers, health care providers, and potential employers.” If the program is a success, plans are to roll it out elsewhere in the state and across the country. And if all this happens to bring some fresh attention to Google’s GrandCentral phone service, well, that’s OK, too.


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  • RedRat

    OK, looked into this very briefly and it looks too good to be true–but then it is Google so it may well be true! What’s the catch? Someone has to be making some bucks on this and how do they do it? I know Google can be altruistic (at least they would like you to believe they are) but still they do have stockholders. How is this paid for.

  • GaryM

    Google can pick up phone numbers in bulk (numbers themselves don’t cost anything), have them digitally routed to their server farms (over existing fiber and copper), set up some racks of open source Asterisk PBX/Voicemail servers, and voila!

    The cost, which is low, is totally offset by the goodwill in this program. Telecommunications firms could have done this years ago at higher recurring costs. Voicemail has become an open source commodity in the last few years, and Google knows how to scale things up.

  • Maybe its about time!
    Google can do it world wide at almost no cost compare to the massive publicity that it generates and kick some asses at Verizon, AT&T et al.
    Shame on them.

  • Wm. B. Hackett

    God bless Google!

    Great idea. Truly great.

    Compliments to the thinkers and every blessing.

    –Bill Hackett

  • Jimi

    Good. Google can spend money doing this instead of the taxpayer. You know that sooner or later SF would have come up with this boondoggle on their own, and thrown a ton of money at it. Once again, the free market provides a better solution.