Thanks Lifehacker for the link to my post!
Feedback for Google Voice
- Google Apps tied to Google Voice account
- Reply to emails with a Google Voice message
- Send Google Voice notes directly to other users
- Google Voice directory (opt-in or course!)
- Bring back Voicemail for the homeless
Things I Like About Google Voice vs Old Grand Central Service
- Multiple greetings
- iPhone App GV Mobile (gizmodo review)
I would really like to see Google bring back voicemail accounts for people who are homeless or in transistional housing like Grand Central used to offer. The current offerings to provide voicemail numbers to people is sorely lacking. Here in Minnesota, people who are homeless get numbers that they must keep calling into or they risk losing the mailbox. Michael Arrington over at Techcrunch poked fun of this offering, dismissing it as marketing hype.
The Story of Shawn
What I do know is that I had an A+ Hardware Certification student named Shawn Stokes. He was a war vet and had vision and hearing issues. He came to the class in hopes of earning his A+ certification so he could get a job…that got him off the streets.
I didn’t know he was homeless at first but after awhile, it became obvious there was something going on with Shawn. His clothes weren’t always clean, he brought a large bag to class and often it looked like he could use a shave. Eventually, some of the other adult students began to give Shawn rides and told me he was staying at a homeless shelter about 2 miles away. I told the program managers that on the days Shawn couldn’t get a ride, he was walking those 2 miles in the middle of a Minnesota winter. I asked for bus passes. I won’t go into the shortcomings of the program as to why they couldn’t/didn’t/wouldn’t provide any.
Even though he was homeless, Shawn had the best attendance over an 8 week period! Shawn was also the first person who was homeless I ever loaned money to for a laptop…and got it all back. He really changed my thoughts on how homeless people were. I also gave Shawn rides and was happy to see the classroom of students coming together to help one another.
I kept in touch with Shawn and other students, letting them know if they needed help, I was always here. You know how I am!
Shawn got back in touch with me the summer of 2007. He had now been homeless for about a year (he lost his housing approx 4 months before he started the A+ class January 2007). I set to work to ask Shawn if he wanted my help to find housing, get a job and medical attention for his various ailments. He said yes so we set out to get him going!
Of coure, one of the first things was communication. We got him a @gmail.com account and ditched his yahoo. Next, I wanted to get him a voicemail number and kept saying, “Google is getting really close to reopening up the program, just wait” (geeze was I wrong). We talked about his challenges with getting help from the VA Veteran’s hospital, seeing his parole officer (long story), getting around on the bus, how his laptop was stolen at the shelter, his upcoming surgery and so on. I was able to get him a 30 day stay at a local shelter which lifted his spirits…at least for a while. The first thing he said was, “Adria, they give us breakfast here!”
Please Bring Back Free Voicemail For People Who Are Homeless
So back to Grand Central, Shawn had trouble hearing so using the phone was tough. Each day he had to try and find a phone he could use which ment a lot of walking. Each phone was different so sometimes he could hear better and sometimes not. He became frustated, thinking he would never find a job or get housing. I did my best to help keep his spirits up.
I wish Shawn had been able to have a reliable voicemail number to relieve some of the stress he had while trying to stay stafe and find a place to call his own.
Twice a year, I volunteer for Project Homeless Connect Minneapolis. It’s a large, one day event that happens all over the US. It’s an all volunteer nonprofit. People come in, are greeted and have a “helper” for the day to assist them in getting around to the different services offered including
- Legal services
- Veteran’s Benefits
- Internet Cafe (where I volunteer!)
- Voicemail service
- and much, much more!
Main website: Project Homeless Connect Minneapolis
This is where I mentioned that the existing voicemail service offered to folks is substandard. The people at the agency, Community Voicemail, are doing their best but compared to Google Voice, it’s skimpy.
Post from Official Google blog 8/29/2007
For homeless people and others in need, not having a stable phone number can be crippling: you need one to follow up on medical appointments, keep in touch with friends and loved ones, and hear back from prospective employers.
When we acquired GrandCentral Communications last month, we were pleased to embrace their Project CARE initiative, which provides a permanent local phone number and unlimited voicemail service to people who need a way to stay connected.
GrandCentral has been operating Project CARE (“Communications and Respect for Everybody”) since April 2006, and with the help of more than 20 community outreach partnershas provided more than 5,000 phone numbers and served close to 100,000 voicemail messages to homeless and needy people in the Bay Area. Someone calling a number from Project CARE will have the same experience as someone calling a standard phone number, and voicemail messages can be stored as long as they’re needed.