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Homeless Hotspots by Megan Vucasovich

SXSW: Homeless Hotspots

An advertising agency initiated a protocol campaign called Homeless Hotspots where 13 homeless participants were enabled to be mobile hotspots for those in need of Internet whilst attending the South by Southwest festival in Austin, TX. The participants were given $20 a day and were allowed to keep all donations for the wifi access (it was suggested $2 for 15 minutes of internet)

The campaign was met with a surprisingly large amount of negative attitude. People felt that the agency was extorting the homeless and was dehumanizing them by turning them into a device as opposed to someone who can help.

Personally I feel that it was a brilliant move. Those that are homeless don’t have a whole lot going for them so giving them a job that technically utilizes their “natural” environment is both beneficial to the company and to those employed. I do not mean for this to sound derogatory, I am only referencing to the fact that those without homes are constantly moving outside from one shelter to another and we all see them standing on the highway exits with signs asking for help. The festival took place in TX, where it is more often than not, hot and humid. How many people do you think would willingly stand out in Texas heat waiting for people to give them money? Not many people would jump at that opportunity, but those that don’t live a life of luxury and have to fight for every meal they eat, are used to hard work and being in less than desirable situations.

If anything, this campaign helped to promote awareness that not all who are homeless are lazy or unwilling to get themselves out of their situation. These 13 participants were and are people who saw an opportunity to make money and they took it. I will repeat myself too by saying this wasn’t an easy job—they didn’t just sit on a bench with a sign that explained how to access the Internet. They had to interact with all the festival attendees, be able to understand how the hotspot operates and explain to those who wanted access.

I think this is an interesting turn of events because I see a company utilizing the technological world we live in and using it to help. Let’s face it: for most of us, the Internet is a basic necessity. We need it for emailing, shopping, news updates, sharing photos, making reservations, managing our checkbook along with countless other needs. I think if somebody wants to take a basic “need” and turn it into a profit opportunity for others in need, then more power to them! I think it was great what they did. This can even be taken further–it can be used to expand Internet access to more areas where signal is scarce. Plus, you have a great opportunity for advertising. Any company that decides to provide this kind of service is now giving themselves three benefits: jobs for those that really need the money, internet service for those who could benefit from the convenience, and easy advertising. All in all, I think this is a great turn of events.