Finding free computers for low income families often involves a little bit of research into national and local charitable organizations and groups. Public assistance programs often focus on programs that help you pay for utility bills, heat, housing or food. However, some charitable organizations are beginning to realize the need to help low income families bridge the gap between their lives and technology.
Resources and Programs
Many charitable programs providing computer and technology to low income individuals and families are regional-whether by city, county, area or state. Though a few charities nationwide do exist, you may have better luck seeking out local help for finding a free computer.
One of the few national programs is Computers With Causes, an organization that provides a computer to individuals or groups who complete the request form and meet qualifications.
Another such organization is The On It Foundation, which is a non-profit operating out of Florida. This group provides not only free computers to qualified families in Florida and across the United States, but also training and Internet access.
Before submitting an application with personal information to any charitable organization, call its phone number, ask for references and check them out with the Better Business Bureau to make sure they are legitimate.
Because so few national organizations exist that offer computers and technology nationwide, it is best to seek out a local group that provides technology like cell phones or computers to low income families and individuals. For example, in New York, the Computers For Youth (CFY) Take IT Home is a program that provides free home computers to students who qualify in participating CFY schools.
Begin your search for a free computer by getting a list of local charities and non-profits from your city or county government offices. Contact any that are technology based to see what qualifications are to receive the free computer. If you have children in school, the guidance counselor may be able to direct you to a program the school participates in which may provide free computers.
Another way to seek out local companies that give away free computers is to contact companies that accept used computer donations. Even if they only accept the donations, they will be able to give you the name of the organization(s) they provide the donated and refurbished computers to in your area.
Because free computers are expensive items, organizations and charities you contact may require proof of hardship or income before giving you the computer. In addition to providing your name and address, you may be asked about one or more of the following on your application:
- Whether you qualify for any government assistance programs, and if so, which ones
- Explanation of hardship in your life
- Statement on how the computer will be used in your home
Some organizations might require an exchange of several hours of time volunteering or community service hours in exchange for receipt of a free computer. Volunteering might be in the group that gives out the computers, while community service hours may be with a partner organization.
Getting a free computer, even if you are low income, might prove extremely difficult. However, a number of groups across the U.S. offer cheap computers to people with a low income. Like the free computers, the discounted price is only available to those meet certain application criteria. Often, the computers are refurbished and cost anywhere from $50 to $200 or more. Many of the groups that provide the cheap computers are also local.
- The group Computers for Kids (CFK) in Idaho provides discounted computers to families who meet their income qualifications.
- In the Seattle, Wash. area, the group InterConnection sells computers to unemployed, low income or students for a low cost.
Free Computer Access
If you do not qualify for a free computer for low income families, or there are no programs for free or cheap computers in your area, you still have options for computer access. Libraries, even in remote geographic areas, often have several computers available for their members. It might be necessary to sign up for a designated amount of time prior to usage. Community centers or schools may also offer computer access to the public during certain times. Visit the library, community center or school in your area to find out whether they offer public computer use.