Homeless Hotspots not so hot

"Homeless Hotspots SXSW"

New York ad agency Bartle, Bogle and Hegarty (BBH) debuted their charitable experiment, ‘Homeless Hotspots,’ this past week at the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin, Texas. The agency’s program created quite a buzz and quickly stole the SXSW headlines.

Anticipating a high demand for internet access at the event, BBH equipped 13 homeless people from the Front Steps shelter in Austin with 4G MiFi devices and T-shirts that read “I’m (name), a 4G Hotspot.” Users had to be within 30 feet of the human Wi-Fi server and were asked to pay $2 per 15 minutes of internet time, although any donation was accepted. Each homeless participant was paid $20 per day in addition to the donations made from the wireless sales.

According to the Homeless Hotspots website, the initiative is an attempt to modernize the Street Newspaper model. Those in support of the idea think the program creates an opportunity for homeless people to make money and engage productively with strangers, which could help fight stereotypes.

The majority of feedback, however, was negative. Several critics argue that the idea exploits the homeless participants. Likewise, the initiative has been dubbed shameful and dehumanizing. Because of the overwhelming backlash, BBH canceled their plan to launch the program in New York City.

Arguments aside, the project has definitely brought the issues of homelessness and the need for jobs to light!

What do you guys think of Homeless Hotspots?

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