Hundreds Of Homeless And Domestic Violence Victims Find Jobs And Housing Via Wireless Communications

BEDMINSTER, NJ — Amid the heated debate surrounding cutbacks in state and federal shelter programs, one company stands apart in its efforts to support the people most affected.

Bell Atlantic Mobile announced today that its HopeLine charitable initiative has provided more than 4,400 individuals -- primarily homeless and victims of domestic violence -- with free voice mail service this year.

HopeLine gives individuals who do not have access to a personal phone line a single point of contact for communicating with prospective employers and landlords, child and health care providers and family members.

A survey Bell Atlantic Mobile recently conducted with nearly 40 social service organizations revealed that this year more than 860 people retained permanent living quarters and more than 600 secured employment by using HopeLine. Another 175 used the service for resolving health care issues.

"The challenge for our residents to restore some order in their lives is formidable, and they can encounter roadblocks just about every step of the way," stated Paul Freyder, a director for the Pittsburgh, PA, Salvation Army. "With HopeLine, residents have a professional-sounding voice mail service that enables them to receive messages about job opportunities and permanent living quarters. And, by shielding the caller from the knowledge that they are calling a shelter, HopeLine helps put our residents on even ground with other job and lease candidates. It has truly been a life-saver."

How HopeLine Works

Bell Atlantic Mobile issues participating social service organizations several local exchange phone numbers which correspond to voice mail boxes. The organization then issues the numbers to users who can disseminate it to people with whom they need to communicate. A designated case manager at the organization checks the voice mail box regularly. HopeLine voice mail boxes do not require installation of special equipment and can be accessed by any landline or wireless phone.

According to Karla Howard, director of Resident Services for Uptown Shelter in Charlotte, NC, HopeLine decreases the residents' reliance on pay phones. "Unfortunately, the phones would often go unanswered during the day or be occupied for extended periods of time, causing residents to miss important calls. HopeLine has helped restore their independence, and as a result, has become an integral part of our service offering."

According to Dennis Strigl, president and CEO of Bell Atlantic Mobile, HopeLine was first introduced in 1993 and geared toward the homeless population. "It quickly became apparent to us that the service was also ideal for domestic violence victims and anyone else forced to reside in a shelter due to circumstances beyond their control," Strigl commented. " As shelters continue to face cutbacks in funding at the state and federal levels, they will look to corporations not only for funding, but for innovative solutions to their residents' problems. With HopeLine, we are using our wireless network to provide these individuals with the vital link they need to the community."

HopeLine is a part of Bell Atlantic Mobile's umbrella community relations program, "Wireless at Work . . .", which provides the communities the company serves with the means to improve safety, security and emergency communications through wireless equipment and service.

"In recent years, Bell Atlantic Mobile has distinguished itself as a leading advocate of domestic violence awareness and reduction," stated Esta Soler, executive director of the Family Violence Prevention Fund, a national organization based in San Francisco. "At the Fund, we owe BAM a lot of gratitude for providing battered women with a communications tool that can help them independently and discreetly seek assistance. The company has also extended its commitment by providing the Fund with financial support and by spreading our domestic violence awareness message to its employees and customers."

Bell Atlantic Mobile is the largest wireless service provider on the East Coast and the second largest in the United States. The company owns and operates the most extensive network in the East, covering 111,000 square miles, and the largest chain of wireless retail outlets offering a full range of wireless personal communications services, including voice, data and paging. Based in Bedminster, NJ, Bell Atlantic Mobile has 4.9 million customers and 7,000 employees in the Northeast, mid-Atlantic, Southeast, and, through a separate subsidiary, in the Southwest. The company is the chief wireless subsidiary of the new Bell Atlantic, formed through the merger of Bell Atlantic and NYNEX corporations.