Why Phones and Tablets?

Although the hope is that this website will have broad appeal for populations like campers and digital nomads, the central goal of this site is to help people who are currently homeless or at risk of homelessness. For those populations, a laptop may be out of reach or simply impractical.


The cheapest laptop I have seen in recent years is around $200. My previous laptop was purchased at that price point. It was barely functional. In many ways, a $50 tablet was more functional.

My current laptop was a little over $300. Our experience with the previous laptop was bad enough that we agreed that if we couldn't get a slightly better laptop, it made no sense to get a laptop at all because a $200 laptop is so lousy it is less useful in many ways than a much cheaper tablet.

My current cheap Tracfone smartphone that I use for hours every day as a computer cost just $30. In recent years, I have had several tablets that cost around $50-$70. If you are extremely poor, $200-$300 can be completely out of reach. But a price point of $30-$70 can be within reach, especially if you know it is a means to increase your income. A cheap device can quickly pay for itself and I bought several devices on the street, sometimes after my old one got damaged because life on the street is hard on electronics, on the justification that I was financially better off spending the money on a tablet so I could work than not spending it.

Backpack and Tent Friendly

It can be a huge pain to type on a laptop while laying on the floor of a tent. Laptops are also heavier and bulkier, which can be problematic when you need to fit all of your possessions in a couple of bags and carry everything everywhere all the time. A tablet or smartphone is much more homeless friendly due to the compact size, light weight and ability to use without a desk.

They also often have better battery life than a cheap laptop and you can store tablets and smartphones in standard size freezer Ziploc bags to protect them from rain. Phones can be stored in quart size bags. Small tablets can sometimes also fit in quart sized bags. Most larger tablets readily fit in gallon sized bags. Laptops typically need something larger than that, like at least a 2 gallon size. Larger sizes are harder to find and more expensive than these standard Ziploc sizes.

While homeless, my experience was that if I bought a new laptop, other library patrons were more likely to complain about us being in the library and try to get us thrown out. My feeling was this was an expression of prejudice or jealousy. A cheap phone or tablet is less likely to cause classist jerks to try to actively make your life unnecessarily harder.

One of the goals of this project is to get free tech into the hands of homeless individuals via collecting used devices, adding a link to this site and giving them away. People frequently upgrade their phones. The hope is this means used phones will be readily available in reasonable quantities for such a project.