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Google Offers Homeless Free Voicemail  (Source: MSNBC)
Google says the voicemail will allow doctors and employers to contact the homeless

The problem for many homeless job seekers and homeless people with medical conditions is that while they can get assistance with healthcare and looking for a job, they don’t typically have a way for doctors or potential employers to contact them.

Google announced this week that it would offer free voicemail to every homeless person in San Francisco. The voicemail will cost the homeless people nothing and messages can be retrieved from any phone. The users would be able to leave their own personal greetings and the numbers are theirs to keep forever.

Google says that there will be nothing to indicate to people calling the voicemail that it is anything other than a standard local number. This will allow homeless to fill out job applications and leave a contact number, making them more likely to find work. The numbers can also be used to allow doctors and clinics to contact users as well as giving family a way to reach the homeless.

Craig Walker, senior project manager at Google told MSNBC, "It just seems exactly like any other voicemail. 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."

The program is ready to start in San Francisco right away and if successful could be rolled out to more cities across the country in the future. Google also announced another new imitative today called Google Health that allows people to keep medical records in one place.

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Great idea
By Haven Bartton on 2/29/2008 1:48:07 PM , Rating: 5
Wow, this is a great idea. It's this sort of innovative action that's going to help people get off the streets. I live in Vancouver where we have a very significant homeless problem and I think that this, along with various other initiatives, would be a step in the right direction.

It is, of course, dependant on Google's altruism though. I wonder if the voicemails are being scanned for ad data...?

RE: Great idea
By Curelom on 2/29/2008 1:51:31 PM , Rating: 3
What are you going to sell to a homeless person?

RE: Great idea
By Flunk on 2/29/2008 2:00:02 PM , Rating: 3
After they get a job? Lots of things. People remember who helped them out when they were down.

RE: Great idea
By Aranthos on 3/1/2008 11:49:39 AM , Rating: 2
I honestly have no idea, but I suppose a house would be important to them. Just a guess...

RE: Great idea
By GlassHouse69 on 3/2/2008 1:14:58 AM , Rating: 2
oh jeez :)

bad joke :)

Yes, imprinting google in their minds is the reason google does it.

yes also this is what they need. (i know many homeless people who have voicemail in NYC already, actually)

RE: Great idea
By dever on 2/29/2008 2:37:01 PM , Rating: 2
I picked up one of these GrandCentral numbers a while back when the beta was more open. It's really a cool system. You select an area code, then a number from a list of available ones. You can set different messages or actions based on the person calling you or the group they've been assigned. You can also have a link to the voice message emailed to you and listen to it online.

RE: Great idea
By tastyratz on 2/29/08, Rating: -1
RE: Great idea
By spluurfg on 3/1/2008 2:58:02 PM , Rating: 2
It is, of course, dependant on Google's altruism though. I wonder if the voicemails are being scanned for ad data...?

Well they picked SF, the largest city near Silicon Valley, so maybe that's showing that they are interested in an area near them. If they wanted to sell stuff to the homeless, they should have picked London, where the 'homeless' people have cell phones.

RE: Great idea
By derwin on 3/1/2008 5:57:33 PM , Rating: 2
If you want to assume google is out to get someone here, you will find a way, no doubt; but there are more profitable endeavors, more media attracting stunts and more informative data mining schemes google could be pulling but are not.

I for one find this to lighten my heart. Its nice to see Americans taking care of Americans. Shoot - people taking care of people.

Homeless Voicemail Recordings
By UppityMatt on 2/29/2008 1:46:16 PM , Rating: 4
Homeless Guy Jim: "Hey Bob i saw you last night sleeping on my bench..i better not catch you there tomorrow."

Homeless Guy Bob: "Sorry i traded Frank 1/5th of Colt 45 for that bench, you will have to take your complaint up with him."

Homeless Guy Frank: "Man Bob is such an idiot he gave me a 1/5th of Colt to sleep on a bench that isn't even mine."

Night of the living homeless
By NinjaJedi on 2/29/2008 2:50:59 PM , Rating: 1

RE: Night of the living homeless
By JimmyC on 3/4/2008 12:51:09 PM , Rating: 2
Super cool to the Homele-e-e-ess

Let's be serious now
By Lord 666 on 2/29/2008 3:35:58 PM , Rating: 1
While this is a great "feel good" idea, there are many more obsticles that prevent homeless people from nailing the perfect job than not having a voicemail.

Namely what happens when the homeless person comes in all smelly, dirty, and wearing the same ripped clothes day in and day out. Not all homeless people have access to a homeless shelter.

Working in NYC, you can tell the difference between the homeless people who have assistance and the ones you don't... you can smell it a mile away.

But one thing I never understood, if I was homeless in the Northeast or any cold region, wouldn't it make sense to start walking to warmer climate?

They're on
By mindless1 on 2/29/2008 4:07:40 PM , Rating: 1
crack. Talk about token gestures, yeah the homeless were just sitting around thinking "if only I had voicemail". Google, how about community housing and finding a way to employ them? I know that would be a commitment, it'd be an unreliable work force, etc, but that's where having so many of them comes in, take a hint from temporary employment agency business models.

What if...
By LatinMessiah on 2/29/2008 6:23:16 PM , Rating: 1
..the homeless people use the service for evil, instead (ie: refills on crack rocks)?

So they need to use a phone to get the messages?
By zombiexl on 2/29/08, Rating: -1
By Ammohunt on 2/29/2008 2:10:30 PM , Rating: 1
I agree i am not sure how this trully helps people that are homless but don't want to be.

RE: So they need to use a phone to get the messages?
By bhieb on 2/29/2008 2:19:20 PM , Rating: 5
What do you mean? Have you ever hired or been hired for anything?

Let's say you are homeless and you scrape up enough to clean up and go on an interview. Interview goes great and the guy asks how to get ahold of you. Now you get to reveal that you are homeless, and right or wrong the interviewer is going to jump to some conclusions.

Whereas now you can shake hands give him a legit number, and no one needs to know your personal situation.

By zombiexl on 2/29/2008 2:42:12 PM , Rating: 2
Are they giving them an address as well?

After being hired you usually need to give you address and other information to the employer.

I've been one a few interviews where they had me fill out this stuff before the interview even took place. Even though most of it was the same on my resume.

RE: So they need to use a phone to get the messages?
By bhieb on 2/29/2008 4:58:12 PM , Rating: 2
After being hired you usually

Key word there is After. First impressions are everything after I hire a guy and find out he has no address I am much less likely to fire him on the spot. Plus as an employer if he gives me a bogus address who cares, we are talking low level jobs here (doubt I am doing background checks on the busboy). I will probably be paying him in cash or handing him a check, a valid address is not necessarily required for employment.

By zombiexl on 3/1/2008 11:55:54 AM , Rating: 3
I will probably be paying him in cash or handing him a check, a valid address is not necessarily required for employment.

Except for tax purposes, but as you stated you'd pay in cash. I assume that means that your employee's would not pay taxes and that you wouldnt care if they had an address to begin with.

By Bremen7000 on 2/29/2008 11:36:03 PM , Rating: 2
"Are they giving them an address as well?"

Beggars can't be choosers. </LOL>

By zombiexl on 3/1/2008 11:57:38 AM , Rating: 3
I dont know, once I saw a guy holding a sign askign for money for food. I went to Wendys and bought him a meal and brought it to him. He got upset and threw it on the ground.

By LatinMessiah on 3/4/2008 1:27:50 PM , Rating: 2
I went to Wendys and bought him a meal and brought it to him. He got upset and threw it on the ground.

That's because it wasn't McDonald's.

By jlips6 on 3/4/2008 8:03:37 PM , Rating: 2
there's a couple reasons why he would have done that. most likely is that he actually wanted money for cigarettes, liquor, or other such vices, and your meal was prohibiting him from getting that money. two is you somehow insulted him (i can't figure out how), and three (which is the most unlikely) he can't eat whatever food you're giving him because of medical reasons. (such as celiac disease, or some other intolerance.)

RE: So they need to use a phone to get the messages?
By bhieb on 2/29/2008 2:11:22 PM , Rating: 5
Homeless clients received phone service as part of their Project CARE (Communications and Respect for Everybody) cases.

From the original article. They already have access to free phone service.

By zombiexl on 2/29/2008 2:30:09 PM , Rating: 1
SO then they have to go to ProjectCARE to use a phone. Now it might cost them bus fare to call in. I'm just saying there is no reason google couldnt provide an 800 number for them to use to check messages if they are really tryign to help.

By eye smite on 2/29/2008 2:47:29 PM , Rating: 3
Zombie are you just trying to be agro about this? I'm sure a homeless person can borrow the phone at a gas station or even borrow a couple of coins to use the payphone from someone. It just seems like you're bashing this article to bash it......
I could be wrong though.

RE: So they need to use a phone to get the messages?
By bhieb on 2/29/2008 2:14:15 PM , Rating: 2
Another thing why is it that anytime anyone tries to do something they think is good (regardless of how dumb it is) someone like you is always there to knock them. And it always seems the more successful the persons/company is the more you people criticize.

By Haven Bartton on 2/29/2008 2:22:26 PM , Rating: 2
I agree, this goes a long way towards a persons personal situation not interfering with their ability to get a job. If a homeless person comes in for an interview and fits the job, it really shouldn't matter where/if they go home to after work.

By eye smite on 2/29/2008 2:51:19 PM , Rating: 3
I'm really curious now Zombie after reading your comments, what in your opinion would be a complete solution on this. It may not be a complete solution, but it's offering something to homeless people they don't currently have.....

By Skitchin on 2/29/2008 4:06:36 PM , Rating: 2
I'd really like to see what zombie could come up with as a complete solution, doesn't matter anyhow. The point here is that Google is doing something that they really don't have to do AT ALL. Someone who is struggling like this has probably learned by now to just take what they can get.

I do have one concern with this, and that is abuse of the system. Who wouldn't want to take advantage of a free voicemail for life? Imagine, being able to give some chick at a bar a number, without worrying about being bothered at home...oh wait, a couple of you might not be too worried about that... :P Don't be evil.

By zombiexl on 3/1/2008 11:53:08 AM , Rating: 1
I think i stated very clearly that giving them the ability to call an 800 number would make it more complete.
No matter, I offended the "google is the best company in the world" crowd so whatever i say will be rated down.

By zombiexl on 2/29/2008 2:37:48 PM , Rating: 1
Hurry up and rate me down becuase i made a negative comment about the beloved google. Had MS done this and i made the same comment i'd have been rated up to 5 by now.

RE: So they need to use a phone to get the messages?
By bhieb on 2/29/2008 5:03:02 PM , Rating: 2
Excacltly, what difference does it make. They are trying to do something, not enough in your eyes, but MS, Google, One laptop per child, who cares the point is someone tries to do something and trolls like you cannot wait to jump their ass for not doing it the way you see fit. Here is a novel why don't you do it? Seriously all you have done is bash someone trying to do something good, at least they are doing something.

By straycat74 on 2/29/2008 6:58:06 PM , Rating: 2
I still think the OLPC is a bad idea now that YOU mentioned it. Especially when I keep seeing how african girls need sanitary napkins from the US so they can attend school. Good intentions don't really mean squat. You have to define the problem before getting a solution. How about a mental health care initiative from google for the homeless. That would actually produce results for the majority of them.
Google could also start up a non-profit health insurance company that recoups its costs through advertising. Michael Moore could chip in too and put his money where his 'belief' is.

By zombiexl on 3/1/2008 12:02:03 PM , Rating: 2
Go back through my post history before you call me a troll. Just becuase you dont like my opinion doesnt make me a troll. I think its a good start, but i also think they are doing it strictly for publicity. We should wait to see hard numbers of how its used/abused before we say its a good idea. I only pointed out that if a homeless person needs to pay to call to check the voicemail its less helpful.

Whats the point of a free service that you have to pay for?

By INeedCache on 3/2/2008 7:43:27 PM , Rating: 2
Had Microsoft done this they likely would have been sued. But Google is the current darling of the tech world. I don't trust them any more than Microsoft or anyone else. But it seems like most other people do. Sheep to the slaughter.

Google Heath
By Netopia on 2/29/08, Rating: -1
RE: Google Heath
By zombiexl on 2/29/2008 2:05:30 PM , Rating: 2
I agree.. I love the we're not covered by HIPPA.

Technically if you are storing information covered by HIPPA
you are required to abide by HIPPA regulations.

RE: Google Heath
By dever on 2/29/2008 2:42:10 PM , Rating: 2
While I'm not ready to jump in yet, there's a lot more accountability in a private corporation than a government bureau. In a company, screw ups entail consequences.

RE: Google Heath
By zombiexl on 2/29/2008 2:43:28 PM , Rating: 2
Like all those consequences for those constantly hacked credit card companies?

RE: Google Heath
By ebakke on 2/29/2008 5:18:59 PM , Rating: 2
When people get their info stolen, they leave the company. When the company loses money, it reprimands those who caused the problem.

RE: Google Heath
By guy007 on 2/29/2008 3:35:00 PM , Rating: 2
He's right. Why would you rate this guy down? Keeping your health records with a third party is a dumb decision, one small breech of security and everything personal is released. HIPAA is in place to protect us all.

RE: Google Heath
By ebakke on 2/29/2008 5:21:44 PM , Rating: 2
Google may be following guidelines that are at least as stringent as HIPAA. You (unless you're a Google employee working on Google Health) simply have no idea.

"We’re Apple. We don’t wear suits. We don’t even own suits." -- Apple CEO Steve Jobs
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