Google offers SF homeless free voicemail: “Don’t be evil” or smart gimmick?

googlogoGoogle’s motto “Don’t be evil” seems to be getting substantial weight behind it today as Google is announcing life-long phone numbers and voice mail for all of San Francisco’s homeless population.

If they accept the number, homeless people could call in from any phone to receive their messages. Perhaps more importantly, having a phone number will also allow the homeless to fill out job applications and go to clinics for tests that require a phone call to share results.

You have to hand it to Google, this move looks absolutely great for them — but is there a flip side?

Well if the picture (seen below) used on MSNBC’s coverage of the story is any indication, this is also a promotional gimmick of sorts to further the company’s GrandCentral service.

GrandCentral was acquired last year by Google. The service allows users to sign up for free phone numbers that can redirect to their actual phone numbers so they don’t have to give those out on the web. Google just last week opened up GrandCentral access to bloggers (our coverage).

update: As Sean and Allen point out in our comments, GrandCentral has offered this free voicemail to the homeless before in the pre-Google days.

update 2: Google’s Matt Cutts points us to Community Voice Mail, a non-profit with a mission of providing 24-hour voicemail access to people in crisis.

googvm


[photo via MSNBC]