Finding free computers for low-income families often involves a 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.
National Resources and Programs
There are a few national charities that work to provide computers for low-income individuals and families.
PCs for People
PCs for People is a national, nonprofit organization that has provided over 174,000 individuals with PCs by recycling donated computers. To be eligible for this program, you must be 200 percent below the poverty line or enrolled in an assistance program. While you can get a computer online, you will be required to provide a photo ID and eligibility document dated within last six months.
Computers With Causes
A gifting program run through donations, Computers with Causes offers free computers to families that meet their eligibility requirements. This organization offers tablets, computers, laptops, etc. This is a need-based program which requires you to complete a contact form and describe your need. While the program doesn't list a specific income requirement, it does state it caters to those who are truly in need and computer gifts are considered on a case-by-case basis.
The On It Foundation
Catering to K-12 students and family, The On It Foundation provides donated computers at-risk youth and families in need. To qualify for a free computer, you must be a K-12 student in a public school and be on the free or reduced lunch program. In order to apply for the program, parents must submit a letter of request. This letter must explain their specific need and how the computer could benefit the child.
In addition to offering services like gift vehicles and disabilities assistance, With Causes offers reused and recycled computers for at-risk youth and families. This service is offered on a case-by-case basis and you must prove your hardships and need. To apply for a free computer, you need to complete an online form.
In addition to national programs, there are also charitable community organizations and state-run programs that offer free computers for those under the poverty line.
Local Technology Programs
Because the need can be so great among national programs, you can also seek out local programs that provide technology, like cellphones or computers, to low-income families and individuals. For example:
- Computers for Classrooms offers free computers for California residents.
- Computers for Youth offers free computers to sixth graders in low-income middle schools in New York, Atlanta, and Philadelphia.
- LSA Laptop Loan Program is a program through the University of Michigan that allows students to borrow a MacBook for the entirety of their undergraduate program.
Begin your search for a free computer by getting a list of local charities and nonprofits 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.
In areas without a local program, you can find state-funded programs that offer laptops to low-income students, families, and seniors through your local human and family services department. Additionally, if you get state assistance, you can contact your caseworker to find out about different programs available for home computers and laptops.
Another way to find a free computer is to contact companies in your area that might donate their used equipment. Even if they only donate to organizations and not individuals, 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 any hardship in your life
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.
Free Computer Access
If you do not qualify for a free computer, or there are no programs for 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 before using one. 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.