Homeless get free phones

As Government seeks private sector assistance on housing, Cingular Wireless has jumped ahead with a pledge for free phone service to the homeless for a year.

Members of the Cayman Islands Recovery Operation recently revealed that it is asking locally registered corporations to chip in with the housing recovery effort, and had been aiming for financial support in the purchase of trailer homes.

But Manager of Cingular Wireless, formerly AT&T Wireless, Raul Nicholson-Coe said his company thought it best to give of its product in trade.

‘What better way to give than to give what we are good at,’ he said to the Caymanian Compass yesterday.

Having heard of CIRO’s need, Mr. Nicholson-Coe made a proposal to Recovery Manager Orrett Connor and the sub-committee heads last week.

‘We agreed to give everyone that is on the official Government [homeless] list a free phone,’ Mr. Nicholson-Coe said.

The unit cost per phone is $119, and Cingular Wireless will be giving each recipient a $50 voucher each month for calls for 12 months. This equates to $600 in phone calls per person, and based on an approximate figure of 887 persons listed as homeless, it is estimated that total value of the phone unit handouts would be over $105, 000.

‘They don’t have to actually be in a shelter, if they are someone on the homeless list, we would give them a free phone,’ Mr. Nicholson-Coe said. He explained that such affected persons could be living with friends or family.

Pointing out that his company can be found in many markets internationally, he said, ‘One of Cingular Wireless’ main objectives is to maintain a good relationship where it operates’.

It is this general feeling of corporate giving to the community that CIRO is hoping will spur the private sector into throwing its support behind the temporary housing thrust.

‘This is an ideal opportunity for some of the companies that do business here to demonstrate a corporate community spirit,’ said Mr. Colin Ross who is a member of the CIRO sub-committee on housing.

‘It is, after all, said that they make a lot of money but it does not trickle down.’

What Mr. Ross and colleagues are hoping for are donations at $15,000 each, which is the landed cost of one of the trailer homes.

In instances of persons receiving a trailer home but having no land or not enough space to hold it, that unit will be placed on crown land, forming temporary trailer communities.

This would go a long way in supporting many destitute and sick persons, some of whom Mr. Ross said are living in cramped conditions almost literally on top of each other.

Cabinet has approved CIRO’s importation of 75 trailer homes, 10 of which are due by mid-January, and Mr. Ross said if the private sector contributes money that number could be increased.

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