December 2, 2013 2:31 pm
Updated: December 2, 2013 2:36 pm

Campaign to donate used cell phones to low income seniors launches on the Downtown Eastside

The Wattson app allows users to track usage via their smartphone

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A unique campaign is underway to donate used cell phones to low income seniors on the Downtown Eastside.

The organizers with Portland Hotel Society are asking for old phones that can make 9-1-1 calls, even without a SIM card.

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“Sometimes seniors can’t afford a phone, or a lifeline,” says Chair of the Vancouver Park Board and mental health worker Sarah Blyth. “A senior can fall down, and if they do not have a lifeline, then they’d have to wait until someone notices or yell for someone to hear …They can live more at ease with the fact that they could just call 9-1-1 if they had any issues at all.”

Blyth came up with the idea after talking to a hospital nurse about a similar initiative started by the Vancouver police to hand out used cell phones to sex trade workers.

“It is a cheap, simple way. And the more we look into it, the more we realize there is a need for it. I can only imagine as a senior sitting at your apartment, knowing that you might be sick and you do not have access to 9-1-1, that to me would be a difficult place to be in.”

The society is looking for 500 phones. The city of Vancouver has already donated 75.

Blyth says they ask that people donate their chargers as well to make sure the phone is usable.

Vancity will have donation boxes set up at various locations throughout the city, including the Creekside and Roundhouse Community Centres.

The organizers are also partnering with FreeGeek, a community organization that recycles donated technology, to teach seniors how to use cell phones to call 9-1-1.

Any extra phones they receive will be donated to the Vancouver police department.

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