VOICE-MAIL helps homeless link to job, home, services FWD

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Sat, 14 Nov 1998 21:43:11 -0400


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FWD  San Jose Mercury News - November 5, 1998


HOMELESS DIAL OPTIONS WITH VOICE-MAIL SERVICE

By Deborah Kong, Mercury News Staff Writer


In a valley where many are jabbering into cellular phones or chatting on
second telephone lines, being well-connected is taken for granted. But for
the formerly homeless David Housel, just checking messages on a voice mail
box was a luxury.

Shuttling between a rotating shelter program, Housel used the voice mail to
retrieve messages from a Cupertino management company while searching for
an apartment. It worked. In June, the Salvation Army Thrift Store manager
moved into a three-bedroom apartment that he shares with two other men.

Housel is one of the success stories of the new Bay Area-wide Community
VoiceMail program that offers voice mail to homeless people in eight
counties. More than 1,000 voice mail boxes assigned to homeless people are
the result of a partnership between corporate donors, the non-profit Bay
Area Homeless Alliance and local volunteers of the Baha'i Faith.

Caseworkers in dozens of Bay Area social service agencies dispense the
seven-digit voice mail numbers where family, potential employers,
landlords, schools and doctors can leave messages for homeless people to
retrieve.

Clients, who record their own outgoing messages, can use the voice mail for
up to three months. Workers track when and how many calls come in. In Santa
Clara County, where about 180 voice mail boxes are in use, the devices
played a key role in securing a job or housing for 60 percent of the people
who use them, Alliance officials said.

Housel, 61, who came to California from upstate New York with $900 in his
pocket toescape memories of his wife's recent death, said the voice mail
was a godsend. He slept in shelters and sent out 40 resumes over four
months, using the voice mail to check messages from prospective employers.

``It gives you a sense of independence and a sense of security,'' said the
silver-haired Housel, dressed in a gray suit. ``At that point it was the
only way I had to contact the outside world. It's very hard to explain to
somebody who's never been homeless -- you're kind of a nothing.''

Housel, who had worked in department stores as a salesman and manager since
he was 15, sent an application to a Santa Clara restaurant. A week later,
they called his voice mail to offer him a job as cook, dishwasher and
busboy.

A regular customer there told him about a job at the Salvation Army Thrift
Store in Sunnyvale, where he worked as a janitor, handyman and sales clerk.
Earlier this month, he was promoted to manager of a boutique at the
Salvation Army's downtown San Jose store.

The voice mail system that many clients use was donated by Milpitas-based
Lucent Technologies Octel Messaging Division. Octel, a messaging systems
provider, gave the Alliance two of its PC-based messaging servers, software
and assistance from customer service representatives who helped set it up
-- a package worth about $40,000 to $50,000.

``I'm sitting in front of a PC, an ISDN line, a fax and a telephone. I'm a
`have,' '' said senior vice president and general manager Alex Gray.
``(But) in an incredibly prosperous area like Silicon Valley there are
still thousands of people who aren't making it at all.''

San Francisco County, where WorldCom Inc. donated the system, and Santa
Clara County, have been using the voice mail system for a few years. San
Mateo and Sonoma began only two weeks ago and Solano is expected to begin
shortly. Alameda, Marin, Napa and Contra Costa have started in the last six
months. Sherman Oaks-based Apex Voice Communications Inc. donated the
systems for those seven counties.

Teams of Baha'i volunteers set up and manage the central voice mail systems
in their own homes. The Baha'i Faith is an independent world religion that
performs community work to advance unity and world peace.

Each county is responsible for the cost of renting telephone lines for the
voice mail system, about $1,200 per year.

The voice mail system is one component of a federally funded project. ``We
saw the potential of being in the heart of Silicon Valley to use technology
in a way that would help the non-profit sector,'' said Ray Allen, executive
director of the Community Technology Alliance, the lead agency.

The second part of the project includes building an
information-and-referral database on the Internet that gives service
providers and clients updated news on housing, employment, benefits and
other services. The Alliance also gave 54 Bay Area agencies new computer
systems with modems and Internet connections. The networking system was
donated by 3Com.

In East Palo Alto, Bayshore Community Resource Center program coordinator
Harriet Swearington said she is looking forward to getting the voice mail
service because it would help her clients become self-sufficient.

Irma Anderson, a program manager at Cupertino Community Services said the
voice mail has been a lifeline for her clients.

``People who can't communicate to the outside world are invisible,'' she
said. ``It gives them the sense of being part of society again.''

END FORWARD
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** NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is
distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in
receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. **

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FWD  San Jose Mercury News - November 5, 1998 



<paraindent><param>right,left</param>HOMELESS DIAL OPTIONS WITH
VOICE-MAIL SERVICE


By Deborah Kong, Mercury News Staff Writer 

</paraindent>


In a valley where many are jabbering into cellular phones or chatting
on second telephone lines, being well-connected is taken for granted.
But for the formerly homeless David Housel, just checking messages on a
voice mail box was a luxury.


Shuttling between a rotating shelter program, Housel used the voice
mail to retrieve messages from a Cupertino management company while
searching for an apartment. It worked. In June, the Salvation Army
Thrift Store manager moved into a three-bedroom apartment that he
shares with two other men.


Housel is one of the success stories of the new Bay Area-wide Community
VoiceMail program that offers voice mail to homeless people in eight
counties. More than 1,000 voice mail boxes assigned to homeless people
are the result of a partnership between corporate donors, the
non-profit Bay Area Homeless Alliance and local volunteers of the
Baha'i Faith.


Caseworkers in dozens of Bay Area social service agencies dispense the
seven-digit voice mail numbers where family, potential employers,
landlords, schools and doctors can leave messages for homeless people
to retrieve.


Clients, who record their own outgoing messages, can use the voice mail
for up to three months. Workers track when and how many calls come in.
In Santa Clara County, where about 180 voice mail boxes are in use, the
devices played a key role in securing a job or housing for 60 percent
of the people who use them, Alliance officials said.


Housel, 61, who came to California from upstate New York with $900 in
his pocket toescape memories of his wife's recent death, said the voice
mail was a godsend. He slept in shelters and sent out 40 resumes over
four months, using the voice mail to check messages from prospective
employers.


``It gives you a sense of independence and a sense of security,'' said
the silver-haired Housel, dressed in a gray suit. ``At that point it
was the only way I had to contact the outside world. It's very hard to
explain to somebody who's never been homeless -- you're kind of a
nothing.''


Housel, who had worked in department stores as a salesman and manager
since he was 15, sent an application to a Santa Clara restaurant. A
week later, they called his voice mail to offer him a job as cook,
dishwasher and busboy.


A regular customer there told him about a job at the Salvation Army
Thrift Store in Sunnyvale, where he worked as a janitor, handyman and
sales clerk. Earlier this month, he was promoted to manager of a
boutique at the Salvation Army's downtown San Jose store.


The voice mail system that many clients use was donated by
Milpitas-based Lucent Technologies Octel Messaging Division. Octel, a
messaging systems provider, gave the Alliance two of its PC-based
messaging servers, software and assistance from customer service
representatives who helped set it up -- a package worth about $40,000
to $50,000.


``I'm sitting in front of a PC, an ISDN line, a fax and a telephone.
I'm a `have,' '' said senior vice president and general manager Alex
Gray. ``(But) in an incredibly prosperous area like Silicon Valley
there are still thousands of people who aren't making it at all.''


San Francisco County, where WorldCom Inc. donated the system, and Santa
Clara County, have been using the voice mail system for a few years.
San Mateo and Sonoma began only two weeks ago and Solano is expected to
begin shortly. Alameda, Marin, Napa and Contra Costa have started in
the last six months. Sherman Oaks-based Apex Voice Communications Inc.
donated the systems for those seven counties.


Teams of Baha'i volunteers set up and manage the central voice mail
systems in their own homes. The Baha'i Faith is an independent world
religion that performs community work to advance unity and world
peace.


Each county is responsible for the cost of renting telephone lines for
the voice mail system, about $1,200 per year.


The voice mail system is one component of a federally funded project.
``We saw the potential of being in the heart of Silicon Valley to use
technology in a way that would help the non-profit sector,'' said Ray
Allen, executive director of the Community Technology Alliance, the
lead agency.


The second part of the project includes building an
information-and-referral database on the Internet that gives service
providers and clients updated news on housing, employment, benefits and
other services. The Alliance also gave 54 Bay Area agencies new
computer systems with modems and Internet connections. The networking
system was donated by 3Com.


In East Palo Alto, Bayshore Community Resource Center program
coordinator Harriet Swearington said she is looking forward to getting
the voice mail service because it would help her clients become
self-sufficient.


Irma Anderson, a program manager at Cupertino Community Services said
the voice mail has been a lifeline for her clients.


``People who can't communicate to the outside world are invisible,''
she said. ``It gives them the sense of being part of society again.''


END FORWARD

-

** NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. **


HOMELESS PEOPLE'S NETWORK  <<http://aspin.asu.edu/hpn/>  Home Page

ARCHIVES  <<http://aspin.asu.edu/hpn/archives.html>  read posts to HPN

TO JOIN  <<http://aspin.asu.edu/hpn/join.html> or email Tom <<wgcp@earthlink.net>

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