Frequently Asked Questions about Open Access Connections

What is Open Access Connections?

Formerly Twin Cities Community Voice Mail (TCCVM), Open Access Connections is a non-profit agency that provides free, short-term voice mail phone numbers to agencies and programs. These agencies’ staffs provide Open Access Connections numbers to their clients. For people without phones, Open Access Connections bridges gaps while they seek housing, jobs, health care and safety from domestic abuse. Currently, staff members at 350 agencies in the metro area and throughout Greater Minnesota use our service. Each agency tailors this service to meet the needs of their clients.

Who makes up the participant base? Whom do you serve?
Open Access Connections serves a very diverse client base. The majority of our participants are between 26 and 44 years of age – people who are often working to support their families. All of our clients are very low income. In addition, we serve participants who are disabled, veterans, unemployed and homeless.

What is your history?
Open Access Connections was founded in 1994 as Twin Cities Community Voice Mail (TCCVM). Learn more about the people and forces that shaped our organization.

How can I become part of Open Access Connections?
We welcome everyone to join Open Access Connections. If you need voice mail right away, you can become a participant. If you want to help our efforts, become a supporter.

What are other ways I can help participants? (contact lawmakers, donate, etc.)
You have many options:

  • Make a donation to Open Access Connections
  • Contact your elected representatives on our behalf
  • Volunteer with the agencies or shelters that serve our participants
  • Follow Open Access Connections on Facebook and Twitter.

What is the philosophy of serving participants?
We are committed to empowering participants with communications and technology tools. We help them create a future through self-determination, supporting positive social change.

How can I learn more about poverty in Minnesota?
Read up on some current research.

Why do people use Open Access Connections?
Participants use the service to connect with:

  • Friends and family
  • Housing
  • Medical care
  • Educators and child care providers
  • News and information
  • The right resources to meet their goals and continue to feel connected to the community

Partner Agencies

What do staff and partner agencies do?

  • Assign Open Access Connections numbers and train people how to use them.
  • Maintain records of Open Access Connections numbers in use and by whom.
  • Notify Open Access Connections of new users in a timely fashion.
  • Remove people who are not using the service.
  • Send completed outcome forms to Open Access Connections when a Open Access Connections user’s service ends.
  • Protect vacant numbers with agency security codes.
  • Request additional phone numbers and re-training.

What does it cost for agencies?
Providing Open Access Connections services is free for partner agencies. We even train your staff.

How long does training take for agency staff?
Open Access Connections is easy. Training is about 60 minutes. Open Access Connections staff members bring agency staff everything they need to set up service. Once agency staff members become accustomed to enrolling and terminating participants on Open Access Connections, walking through the process with a participant takes about 5-10 minutes.

What does the Open Access Connections staff do?

  • Train staff at each partner agency on how to use Open Access Connections.
  • Troubleshoot the system.
  • Provide reports showing users and activity to aid agency record keeping.
  • Maintain confidentiality regarding users and messages they receive.
  • Collect outcome data and prepare reports showing Open Access Connections’ usage and success rate.
  • Answer staff questions about Open Access Connections as these arise.
  • Keep in touch with people who use Open Access Connections to hear their ideas about our services.

Who are the partner agencies?
We have hundreds of partner agencies across Minnesota. Here is the current list of partners.


Who can use Open Access Connections?
Individuals and families who have no income or very low incomes and no telephone may use Open Access Connections. Having no telephone means:

  • No land line
  • Owning a cell phone with few or no minutes available
  • Having access only to a community phone (shelter, transitional housing, treatment program, etc.)

All Open Access Connections participants get their own unique voice mail number.

How long can participants use Open Access?
Generally, participants who continue working with staff may use Open Access Connections for six months. Due to economic challenges, many need to use it for longer.

What do callers hear?
They hear the Open Access Connections user’s individually recorded greeting, in his or her own voice. Callers hear nothing identifying these as Open Access Connections voice mail numbers.

How do Open Access Connections participants retrieve their messages?
They call the same number from any touch-tone phone and enter their personal identification numbers. After they push in the security codes they have chosen, the Open Access Connections system plays their messages.

Where is the service available?
Open Access Connections service is available throughout Minnesota.

What does it cost for participants?
This service is free for Open Access Connections participants.

Do Open Access Connections participants have a chance to influence the service?
Yes – Open Access Connections staff and board members welcome participation, feedback and collaboration from our participants so we can make the service even more useful and relevant. Our advisory board and 50+ group meet regularly, giving our participants opportunities to share their experiences, support each other and provide Open Access Connections with ideas and suggestions about our service.


How effective is Open Access Connections?
Very – just ask the people who have used it.  Participants can find housing and jobs, continue to receive regular health care and stay safe. Last year, 1,758 people found jobs and 1,527 located housing while using Open Access Connections. Above and beyond the data, the ability to remain connected to family, friends and other support networks is key. Being connected provides the base to assist Open Access Connections participants in moving forward and finding greater stability in their lives.

How is money spent in the organization?
Our budget is structured to make the most impact for Open Access Connections participants. Our financial data is outlined in our 990s.

Who is the Open Access Connections media/community liaison contact?
Please contact:

Mark Erpelding