Obamaphone - photo br Fred Hoot

Getting a Free or Low-Cost Lifeline Phone – Obamaphone

A cell phone is necessary for survival if you are unhoused. For emergencies like medical and other life-saving needs a working cell phone is indispensable. If you are in danger or need to report a crime, calling the police is your best option. Calling to report a fire or dialing 911 is impossible if you do not have a working cell phone or smartphone.

Follow these steps in applying for your Lifeline Program phone, more commonly known as the Obamaphone.

Do This First – Mailing Address

If you do not have a mailing address, you will need to get one. Paperwork and your Obamaphone will be shipped to this address. If you have a friend or family member that has an address, see if you could use their address.

There are places like the Opportunity Services Center in Palo Alto that may be able to provide you with a mailing address.

Opportunity Services Center
33 Encina Way
Palo Alto, CA 94301
(650) 853-8672

Check out your local churches and see if they are able to provide you with a mailing address.

Post Office Boxes are also an acceptable mailing address for your Obamaphone.

You can obtain one from the U.S. Postal Service https://www.usps.com/manage/po-boxes.htm for around $70 per year.

The UPS Store https://www.theupsstore.com/mailboxes/personal-mailboxes offers mail boxes, but they are more costly: $84 for a small box for 4 months or 16 months for a $336 payment up front.

Personal storage centers may also offer a mailing box.

Email Address

If you do not have one, you will need to get an email address. Free email is available from many providers such as Google Mail (GMAIL) http://www.gmail.com/ , Yahoo http://www.yahoo.com and others.

If you plan on getting the Android Smartphone instead of the Basic Feature Phone, we recommend getting a GMAIL account. If you plan to install free or paid apps from the Play Store, you will need a GMAIL account.

Sign up and write down your username and password. Make sure you store the username and password in a safe place until you have it memorized.

Apply Online for Your Phone

For the Silicon Valley area, Assurance Wireless by Virgin Mobile is the provider. At this time other carriers (AT&T, Verizon, etc.) do not provide service for the Obamaphones.

Applying is simple by going to https://www.assurancewireless.com/SecureApplication/Address.aspx and entering your address and zip code. If your address is just temporary (you don’t plan to stay there for long), also check the Temporary Address box. If you have a Post Office Box, or another mailbox, DO NOT check the Temporary Address box. Enter the address of the Mailbox (example 123 Any Street) Then click NEXT to check if Assurance Wireless is available for your location.

You will go through the following additional steps to finish your application.

Account Setup

Enter your name. Then enter your mailing address. If your mailing address is a P.O. Box, make sure the “Mailing address is the same as service address” box is NOT checked. If your mailbox has a real address, such as the UPS Store and other mailbox providers have, leave this box checked.

You will also need to create a pin and setup some security questions.

Choose your desired phone (Basic Feature Phone or Android Smartphone)

Review and Sign

Follow the instructions on the page.

Submit your Proof of Eligibility Documents

Follow the instructions on the page.

What’s Next?

You should receive a letter (probably in a pink envelope) with some more paperwork and instructions. Make sure you reply within 30 days of the date on the letter. I you are late, you will be denied your phone and will have to start the whole process over again.

Yearly Recertification

Every year you will need to recertify your information in order to keep your free or low-cost phone. Be on the lookout for a letter that tells you it is time to recertify your phone.

If you change addresses or mailbox numbers, make sure you notify Assurance Wireless so you will not miss this letter. The recertification process may be available by phone. You will get the instructions in this mail.

If you do not do this in time, you will be billed for the normal cost of your plan. This is something you do not want to happen.

Enjoy your Obamaphone and stay safe!



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Fred Hoot

Fred is a Deacon of Benevolence at a church in the Silicon Valley and has been working with the unhoused for many years. He also preaches and is a professional trumpet player.

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