NGEFTO Special Contributor, Louisa Ferncliff.

On Thursday, the William and Melinda Gates Foundation announced an initiative to provide free cell phone charging stations to the homeless.   The project will begin its trial phase with five stations being erected in Los Angeles’ Skid Row.   The stations, which are designed to look like fruit trees, each have 64 USB outlets.

Foundation spokesperson, Rafe Norton, said, “We are all familiar with the challenges the Homeless face on a daily basis:  lack of access to clean drinking water and food, sanitary facilities, and a safe place to sleep, just to name a few.   In the last ten years, another urgent need of the Homeless has become apparent.   Where can a homeless person charge their cell phone?  Although cell phones are ubiquitous in our society, many people remain unaware that over 80% of homeless people have a cell phone and that keeping it charged is a challenge.  Many of these cell phones are older models with aging batteries.  The Gates Foundation wants to provide the homeless with a safe and free way to keep their phones charged!”

If the project proves successful, The Gates Foundation hopes to install 100,000 additional charging stations in areas across the county with significant homeless populations.  They also plan to convert from the bulky USB stations to cordless stations as the homeless upgrade their phones.  Additional work is being done at this time to create new USB trees that match the indigenous flora  in future locations.  “We will never be able to eradicate homelessness,” Norton concluded, “but we can make it better.”