Why the Canadian Mental Health Association has put a call out for your old cellphone

The Canadian Mental Health Association is asking that Islanders dig their old cellphones out of desk drawers, and donate them for clients in one of their housing programs.

Any phone that holds a charge and isn't broken will do

Tessa Rogers, a housing support worker with the Canadian Mental Health Association, says some of their clients said they were finding it hard to make appointments and access various community resources without a phone. (Travis Kingdon/CBC)

The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) is putting a call out for Islanders to find their old phones and consider donating them.  

The phones would go to clients of the My Place Housing First program, run by the CMHA. 

Some of the clients of the program had told staff that securing a reliable cellphone was a challenge for them, said Tessa Rogers, a housing support worker with the CMHA.

The program works with those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, trying to get them into more secure and stable housing situations. 

"A big part of this is weekly meetings with our clients, getting them into stable housing, but then also connecting them with different resources in the community and, you know, potential employers, things like that," she said.

"In order to do this effectively, it's very beneficial typically if they have a cellphone, just so you can reach them easily." 

Rogers says any phone will do. It doesn't need to be a modern smartphone. (Travis Kingdon/CBC)

The organization sometimes has trouble contacting clients, having to call neighbours or friends to get in touch with them, said Rogers. 

"Some of our clients have reported to us, you know, it's very challenging to book my appointments with you folks, book my appointments with my doctor, various community resources, just because they don't have that reliable communication tool," she said. 

Keeping connected

Any phone can be donated, said Rogers. Anything from an old brick, all the way up to the latest and greatest — it just needs to hold a charge and not have a shattered screen, she said. 

"Some of them are looking for something that they can just, you know, quickly answer and have a phone conversation," Rogers said. 

Our goal is to meet clients where they are and, you know, connect them to those community resources.— Tessa Rogers, CMHA

"And then some of our other clients are looking for something that's more up to date that they can use their social media on and maybe play games to reduce some isolation." 

The ability to use the internet is important, not only for reducing isolation in the time of COVID-19, but also to be able to access resources if public health measures tighten in the province. 

"If something does come up with the second wave, and having to shut down, this would allow those clients to still, you know, utilize those resources, whether it be Zoom meetings, Skype, anything like that," she said. 

Always a need

Rogers said they've had a number of people already reach out and offer to donate phones. All of the phones will be cleaned, sanitized, and staff will ensure that no data is left on them before passing them on. 

When the client gets that phone, if the phone gets a plan and how it's paid for is decided on a case-by-case basis, said Rogers. 

"Our goal is to meet clients where they are and, you know, connect them to those community resources. So a few of our clients are already connected with those resources. Some have it within their budget already. If not, it might look like us advocating for them," she said. 

"Some of our clients might not even necessarily want a phone plan and just want a phone that they can use with Wi-Fi. So it's really just meeting that client where they are and kind of assessing their needs and working with them to meet that goal." 

Rogers said there's no set number of phones they're looking for, because they constantly have new clients and there's always a need. 

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