Hundreds of old cellphones are being handed out to low-income seniors in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside today.

The initiative started by the Portland Hotel Society hopes to give those seniors, many of them who live alone, better access to emergency services.

Old cellphones can still call 911 even without a plan or a SIM card.

"If they had access to 911 right at their hands with one of these used cellphones... that would create more security for them," said Sara Blyth, a mental health worker and Park Board Commissioner.

A recent survey conducted by Portland Hotel Society found that 20 per cent of residents in the Downtown Eastside are seniors, many of whom do not have landlines or a cell phone.

Since early December, about 500 cell phones have been collected.

Every device has been wiped clean of personal information and will only provide 911 service, Blyth said.

With files from the CBC's Terry Donnelly