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London / UK - 05/23/2020: London`s busy area, popular destination empty as people self isolate during COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Homeless tent under the bridge.

Homeless people to be given phones and laptops to help stay connected

Image credit: Smutkoalex/Dreamstime

Thousands of homeless people will be given smartphones and laptops in a bid to tackle loneliness and isolation during the coronavirus pandemic.

Tesco Mobile and homelessness charity Crisis will supply homeless people with £700,000 worth of phones, computer devices and internet data. The two-year partnership aims to help rough sleepers stay informed, connected and access support during a “really difficult and dangerous time” following the Covid-19 crisis.

In the first year of the initiative, they aim to provide 2,500 homeless people with phones, laptops and tablets. Members of the public are also being urged by the partnership to hand in their old smartphones or donate to help support the campaign.

According to members of the initiative, this will make it easier for homeless people to look into housing options; to keep in touch with friends and family, and to access information, services and support. It will also help homeless people stay aware of public health guidance and updates as the country adapts to the ongoing threat of coronavirus.

Throughout the lockdown in the UK, Crisis has provided 1,000 mobile phones to people helped off the streets and into hotels as the pandemic emerged.

Chief executive Jon Sparkes said the lack of digital connection during the Covid-19 outbreak has become a “huge challenge” and that addressing this will support charities’ work during a “really difficult and dangerous time”.

He said: “It’s really clear to us that as well as the obvious things of not having a house or being able to afford a place to live, which are really awful things that people face when they’re homeless, there’s this sense of isolation and loneliness and the lack of connectivity that people feel as well.

“That’s always been there, that’s something which is really important, certainly to our services – as well as helping people find somewhere to live and a job, we’re also looking at helping to connect them and the resilience that brings.

“I think what’s happened in the pandemic is for very, very good reasons people have been supported to separate and that’s really shone an even brighter light on that issue and people who are self-isolating in hotel rooms for very good reasons, then the fact that they’re not able to connect has become just even more important.”

Tom Denyard, chief executive of Tesco Mobile, added that the company believes that everyone has the right to be connected and that mobile connection brings us all closer to other people, to society and provides access to essential services. “For many people living without a permanent home, digital connection is a necessary lifeline,” he said.

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