COLUMBUS OH (HJ) – How many times have you seen a homeless person on the street talking to themselves and thought, “That person is crazy!” The founders of the non-profit group EMIT or Equality for the Mentally Inept Transients want to rid the homeless of that stigma.
Bruce Shaw, founder of EMIT, purchases new or collects used cell phones for the homeless in Columbus so that they will not seem so out of place. Bruce explains, “When you see someone talking on a cell phone you assume that they are conducting business or chatting with a friend. If you see someone talking with no cell phone, you think they are insane. By giving the homeless cellphones, we not only give them an outlet for the voices in their head, we give them dignity.”
EMIT volunteers began collecting cellphones in late last year. The phones are cleaned, charged, loaded with 200 minutes and handed out at shelters and underpasses. Janice Truly, an EMIT volunteer, has handed out over 35 cellphones just this month. “The look on the face of the crazy person is priceless. You’ve got to show them how to use the phone. It’s helpful if there are numbers all ready stored in the memory.”
When asked about the homeless calling random people, Mr. Shaw laughed, “At first we erased the memory of the phone and only added the numbers of the other homeless. When none of the homeless could get a word in edgewise with each other, we just decided to leave the numbers on the used phones or program in local radio talk show phone numbers.”
When asked about how they hand out the phones, Mr. Shaw shared, “We’ve actually tried giving cell phones to some people talking to themselves only to realize the “crazy person” was wearing a Bluetooth ear piece.”
EMIT will re-charge and supply more minutes for any phone for free, but so far they have not had to. “Once the phones go dead, they just keep talking into them. They still seem happy.”