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The homeless people participating at the festival receive donations, but some believe the act is "dehumanizing"

New York-based marketing firm BBH and Austin, Texas-based homeless advocacy group Front Steps have raised quite a few eyebrows at annual music and film festival South by Southwest (SXSWi). The two have decided to use homeless people as wireless hotspots for those attending the festival.

"Anyone else find using homeless persons as 'Homeless Hotspots' at SXSWi disturbing, dehumanizing, offensive?" asked Anniina Jokinen, an SXSWi attendee.

BBH and Front Steps recruited 13 homeless people to stand outside of the SXSWi conference with devices. Attendees who provide a PayPal donation to any of the homeless individuals receive internet access for as long as they need it. The campaign suggests $2 per 15 minutes of use. In turn, the homeless individuals obtain the donated money.

"I think the fit [with Front Steps] is in the empowerment, education, and encouragement of the client to earn an income while saving the majority of those earnings with a goal of moving to safe and stable housing," said Front Steps.

Despite the fact that the homeless individuals participating in the conference receive all of the donated money, according to the Homeless Hotspots campaign, attendees worry that such a task deprives them of positive human qualities. Many believe the homeless are being used as "hardware," but the campaign argues that it's a positive experience that benefits the homeless.

"Hotspot" locations are shown using Google Maps

The Homeless Hotspots campaign places homeless individuals on its website along with some of their background story, as well as the option to choose that person's hotspot. For instance, the site describes a New Orleans man named Clarence, who lost his home to Hurricane Katrina and has had trouble getting back on his feet. Those interested can simply click the "PayPal Clarence's Hotspot" button and donate any desired amount.

The Homeless Hotspots campaign site can be found here.

Sources: Homeless Hotspots Campaign, TIME

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By bbomb on 3/12/2012 5:16:58 PM , Rating: 5
Is it any worse than then wandering the streets begging people for money? Is it any worse than them being turned down for assisstance or food because they are homeless? At least here they volunteered to do it and can make some money hanging around like they would already be doing anyways. I see it as a job opportunity for them at future gatherings like this.

Society does a far worse job of dehumanizing homeless people than any company ever could.

RE: Dehumanizing?
By chmilz on 3/12/2012 5:44:01 PM , Rating: 3
I make a good income and I'd strap on the hardware and pretend to be homeless for an evening just for the experience, but I bet these guys will make some really good money while networking (no pun intended) with people they otherwise wouldn't get noticed by.

RE: Dehumanizing?
By dj LiTh on 3/12/2012 6:22:52 PM , Rating: 5
If thats dehumanizing then whats it called when your job is to spin signs outside along the side of the road for pay?

RE: Dehumanizing?
By rs2 on 3/12/2012 8:41:41 PM , Rating: 2
Yep. I don't see how it's possible to call this "dehumanizing" given that all participation was voluntary.

If they were forced/coerced into participating, then sure, there's a case for crying foul. But it sounds like that isn't what happened here.

RE: Dehumanizing?
By WoWCow on 3/12/2012 9:25:25 PM , Rating: 2
Absolutely not! I agree with your statement. The attendee complaining about this voluntary act has absolutely no idea what those people were doing before this.

"Anyone else find using homeless persons as 'Homeless Hotspots' at SXSWi disturbing, dehumanizing, offensive?" asked Anniina Jokinen, an SXSWi attendee.

No, because I can certainly see more (typical) homeless fellow by the highway ramps begging for more change rather than doing something productive like this.

Some people need to realize work is done by providing a legitimate service. Which is what those homeless participants are doing.

Regrettably, those participants aren't paid in full wages but are rather dependent on voluntary donations.

RE: Dehumanizing?
By someguy123 on 3/12/2012 9:53:29 PM , Rating: 2
Agreed. Sitting in a booth and watching TV as a security guard is fine, but sitting around holding a router is apparently dehumanizing. Maybe they should've given them clubs or something.

RE: Dehumanizing?
By Wolfpup on 3/13/2012 10:41:10 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah, I mean I'm a little worried about the radiation, and it's a little weird, and I think we should be making sure no one's homeless as a society, but this doesn't seem super bad to me...I mean I'm kind of more inclined to think of it positively, kind of brings attention to the problem, maybe humanizes the people doing it a bit, and they get money they need out of it, so...I don't know, hopefully it works out positively for them!

RE: Dehumanizing?
By The0ne on 3/13/2012 2:57:36 PM , Rating: 1
I think we should follow China and go beyond this and use kids as well. These homeless people aren't getting paid but getting donations anyways right. So why not have kids "volunteer" to earn a few extra bucks!

Of course, I don't think we're ever going to get to China's horrific humanitarianism stage but at some level this doesn't sit entirely well with me. Granted, yes they are earning money but at what cost/price to them, to us as a society and for the company that benefits from them in what I would have to assume is by and large.

I'm just speaking bits and pieces here as this topic ranges much much too far for anyone of us to cover here. I'm with you guys for the most part but there's a tiny bit of me that doesn't like what is happening.

RE: Dehumanizing?
By PrinceGaz on 3/13/2012 3:06:22 PM , Rating: 2
Kids choose to work for below minimum-wage on newspaper rounds already, so why not offer them the opportunity to work for commission like this internet-access donation scheme outside a conference? It could be a useful boost to their pocket-money.

Why stop there? There are some jobs which kids can actually do a lot better than adults due to being smaller, such as sweeping chimneys in homes with coal or other soot-producing fires.

Just think of the possibilities in maximising the productivity of the population :)

RE: Dehumanizing?
By someguy123 on 3/13/2012 8:44:57 PM , Rating: 2
Comparing this to child labor is a huge stretch. First off these people aren't inside of sweatshops...they're basically just wandering around as usual. Secondly they're grown adults. At some point a human being is going to need to make their own decisions. Like I said, they may as well be guards protecting the routers rather than just leaving them on the floor or taped to a wall to be stolen. I really don't see how this is worse than sitting around begging for money.

News Papers
By Adam M on 3/12/2012 5:52:42 PM , Rating: 2
I was initially kind of offended by the walking hardware aspect of this article. After giving it some though it kind of reminds me of the days when the local news paper would donate stacks of news papers to the homeless. They could stand around and sell a few news papers on the corner and keep what they earned. This isn't much different. However, I do feel that the same thing could be accomplished by mounting hotspots around town and directing them to the website for donation, there really isn't any need to equip people with those hotspots.

RE: News Papers
By bodar on 3/12/2012 7:36:02 PM , Rating: 3
They're forcing people to interact with the homeless, so that the homeless are no longer invisible. Directing people to a website doesn't make the homeless people "real". It actually does the opposite. Most people tend to assumes that every homeless person is either a drug addict, alcoholic, schizophrenic or all of the above. Many are, but this initiative is trying to change the way people view the problem of homelessness as being more complex than that.

RE: News Papers
By ClownPuncher on 3/13/2012 2:58:32 PM , Rating: 1
Homeless people are only good for my experiments in cannibalism. Problem is, they taste like a gallon of $3 wine and rat shit.

Choosing to help people is bad?
By BioHazardous on 3/12/2012 5:19:07 PM , Rating: 1
So if you give homeless people the option to make some money standing around doing nothing you're a bad company? I tire of all the politically correct BS. These people volunteered to do this, that's their free choice, now others want to take that choice away from the homeless? I sense a bit of contradiction with those opposed to this. I can assure you I've had much worse jobs than what these guys get to do for money, and they're probably making a killing doing it. Nothing demoralizing or dehumanizing about that.

RE: Choosing to help people is bad?
By bkrharold on 3/14/2012 1:31:49 PM , Rating: 2
"They volunteered to do this"

If you were drowning and somebody threw you a leaky life vest which will not last long, would you grab on to it?
By condoning this we are normalizing homelessness and accepting it as something that should be part of our society, instead of trying to actually do something about it.
I heard of a man who paid homeless men to fight each other and punch each others lights out while he filmed it. Then he put the videos on YouTube. I suppose you think its OK because they "Volunteered"

By TemjinGold on 3/14/2012 10:06:35 PM , Rating: 2
So I'm assuming you would NOT grab on to it? You would turn up your nose at it and wait for the next vest to come along?

What are you doing by NOT condoning this then? Are we accepting that homeless people don't deserve the right to decide for themselves if they want to do something for money?

I will repeat that there was nothing illegal or immoral about offering them an opportunity that they were completely free to turn down. Why should any of us get to decide whether they should have that opportunity offered to them? Heck, I have a great job but for that kind of money, I'd volunteer myself!

Are you kidding?
By Egglick on 3/12/2012 5:20:22 PM , Rating: 2
Anyone complaining about this is an oversensitive sissy. I'm sure any homeless person in the world would be more than happy to be a part of this. In fact, I'm sure they'd curse out anyone criticizing it.

RE: Are you kidding?
By Camikazi on 3/12/2012 8:57:52 PM , Rating: 2
Yea it seems to happen a lot, people with homes and money telling homeless people what they should or shouldn't feel bad about. But if the homeless are not helped those same people start complaining too, it makes no sense.

I wonder...
By aliasfox on 3/13/2012 11:58:09 AM , Rating: 2
What, besides for lack of credit, would stop a homeless person from doing this (almost) on his/her own? If a hotspot is $50/month and the LTE modem/router is $100 (an assumption), I'd imagine there's a not-insignificant population of the homeless population who have the capital to start it up - it's about the same cost as a cell phone, and many have prepaid phones among their belongings.

If someone would be able to help these people set up payment portals, then they should be able to become the small businesses we always hear about. Every park in Manhattan could have cheap internet coverage!

RE: I wonder...
By bkrharold on 3/14/2012 1:36:41 PM , Rating: 2
Now that is a really good idea, as long as they are not being cooked by all that radiation

Its Exploitative
By bkrharold on 3/14/2012 1:20:21 PM , Rating: 2
Americans should never accept homelessness as a fact of life in what is supposed to be the richest nation in the world. It is a national disgrace. People who attempt to profit from the misery of the homeless, should be ashamed of themselves. It is morally wrong. To these other posters who think that its OK, just try to imagine being homeless yourself, and ask yourself how would YOU feel if someone wanted to make a buck off of your misfortune?

RE: Its Exploitative
By TemjinGold on 3/14/2012 10:02:37 PM , Rating: 2
How are they profiting from the "misery" of the homeless? Last I checked, no one was making a buck from the specific fact that these homeless people were miserable. That company hooked up the homeless for free and let them keep whatever money they got. Where is the profit?

As for others wanting to make a buck off of your misfortune, do you have a job? Because if you've ever worked for anyone in your life, guess what your boss is doing?

Strange Initially
By drlumen on 3/12/2012 5:23:33 PM , Rating: 2
The headline makes it sounds stranger than what it is really. I pictured a bunch homeless people scattered around holding antennas or something. That does seem like hardware.

But if the wireless prividers give time to those people to sell then that is a pretty good deal. If just 2$ from each person once and 50 people donate that is about $100 a day. If $2 for 15 minutes then each person could potentially make $8 an hour. If 50 people donated the suggested amount each person could be making $400 an hour. That sounds like a good deal to me.

Geez, I'm considering signing up...

By OAKside24 on 3/12/2012 11:28:39 PM , Rating: 2
Front Steps seems well done IMO. My guess is Ms. Jokinen doesn't encounter (or even have to think about) the homeless very much, if something like this was disturbing to her.

By Argon18 on 3/12/2012 11:57:37 PM , Rating: 2
I'm holding out for homeless 4G LTE mini-cell sites.

Wake up Anni, wake up!
By geekman1024 on 3/13/2012 12:24:08 AM , Rating: 2
"Anyone else find using homeless persons as 'Homeless Hotspots' at SXSWi disturbing, dehumanizing, offensive?" asked Anniina Jokinen, an SXSWi attendee.

I don't. They spend time doing meaningful things and earned honest payment.

Anni is living in a colorful-flowery-fluffy-cotton-candy-dream-world. She need to wake up and return to reality.

Maybe a few night in the cold street with empty stomach will help poor littl Anni understanding what is disturbing and dehumanizing.

New anti-homeless strategy
By bennyg on 3/13/2012 3:05:20 AM , Rating: 2
If this takes off... I hope my whole neighbourhood has good 3G/4G coverage :)

Just curious...
By jharper12 on 3/13/2012 7:28:24 AM , Rating: 2
Did Anniina post her comment about the dehumanizing aspect of people being used as hardware from a phone manufactured in a plant by 400k human robots in China?

Also, I once matched checks to invoices for twenty five hours straight. Not long after that, I pulled an all-nighter prepping a financial services company for an audit from their broker-dealer. This, while also working as a full time student at a challenging college. Replaced a forklift? Check. Shelf for my boss? Check. Fetched coffee? Check. If you've never been a cog in a machine, there's a decent chance you're a wireless hot spot at SXSW. Being used as hardware is part of the American Dream.

Is it dehumanizing? Sure, I felt devoid of all emotion. Would I rather live under a bridge, rely on people who think I'm a waste of space and air for my next meal, and lose my ability to enjoy anything who's opportunity cost is greater than a buck double? Nope. Props to the homeless working this promotion as a means to a better life. If people need to blog about a dehumanizing job, how about the people dressed up as a giant slice of pizza on the street corner in 100 degree weather? Where is the awareness for them?

This Is Just Wrong
By toyotabedzrock on 3/13/12, Rating: 0
RE: This Is Just Wrong
By Aries1470 on 3/13/2012 9:08:45 PM , Rating: 2
It is a form of Shaming The Homeless. They made them into high profile beggars. To top it off they paid them nothing, letting them rely on donations. This might also be illegal since they are being employed without pay.

Have you ever heard of the word "volunteering"?
Why "High Profile Beggars"?!
You my dear are ALSO A BEGGAR, since you do something to get money!
How is this any different?
They have spare time, so they VOLUNTEER to get donations!
Have you ever seen any recent Olympic Games? It is full of Volunteers! Do they work? Yes, do they get PAID? No! Oh geez, they must be shaming so many people!!!
Over here, in Melbourne Vic, Australia, we have our HOMELESS SELLING a magazine and the price was $5, and they get to keep the money, or most of it. I can't remember the details.
Are they forced to do it? No
Were the homeless people forced to put on that gear? No
Did they get something for their time? Yes or Maybe.

So, how is this "Just Wrong"?
Is it "Just wrong" to have your kids mow the lawn to get pocket money?
Is it "Just wrong" to send them to work at a fast food chain or supermarket for peanuts? No
These people did something worth an effort and got a compensation, since they volunteered to do it!

As for anyone wanting to say something about radiation, get down from your high horses and look around you, especially in CBD locations, so many Telco towers pushing out harmful radiation! Feel sorry for the people that work in Line-of-Sight or just under those about 2-3floors!

Now wake up, and actually THINK what is right?
Has anyone heard of the word "COMMISSIONS"? The more they sold, the more they got!
How is this different to people working in an outbound call centre working for commissions, how is it different for people that go door knocking and hope to sell or register/ sign-up people for different things?

I also did the door knocking sales thing in the past! Did it for one day and did NOT get paid anything. Why? It was commission based!

At least these guys would have an 'easier' time getting commissions.

Now who ever wants to, can go back under their rock and hide there, and stay there!






Let's make this simple
By TemjinGold on 3/14/2012 10:00:03 PM , Rating: 2
What the company is doing is

1) Not illegal.
2) Not coerced.

So why are people against this? Who are YOU to decide if it's dehumanizing? The people who should decide that are the homeless people who get to choose whether they should volunteer. Any homeless people who decide that it is humiliating and dehumanizing don't need to volunteer. No one is being forced into anything and nothing done was even remotely illegal. So where's the problem? In fact, is there anything that homeless people currently do that ISN'T humiliating and dehumanizing?

Have you ever been an intern somewhere? An unpaid one where people treat you like dirt. Is that inhuman? Humiliating? Definitely more so than what these people did. Have you ever heard of people in an uproar about those poor interns? Why is interning okay? Because people of their own free will volunteer to do it.

It is totally immoral
By Shadowmaster625 on 3/13/2012 10:46:31 AM , Rating: 1
Just harvest his organs and turn the rest of him into soylent green. Do it before he votes for Romnebama. (Being dumb enough to vote for that is probably why he is homeless in the first place.)

This Is Just Wrong
By toyotabedzrock on 3/13/12, Rating: 0
It's definitely dehumanizing
By Beenthere on 3/12/12, Rating: -1
RE: It's definitely dehumanizing
By xti on 3/12/2012 9:03:40 PM , Rating: 2
I live in Austin and its a different culture than most US cities.

With the recent death of our city's homeless celebrity Leslie, I seriously doubt anyone here thinks this as a bad thing other than the agenda pushers shoving the 1 sided concepts down everyone's throat.

RE: It's definitely dehumanizing
By Ringold on 3/12/2012 10:40:45 PM , Rating: 4
When you were younger did you ever work retail? People that get offended over this are people that've been living in comfortable, luxurious white-collar level income for so long they don't remember what its like to not be there. People do worse then this for money.

Can't recall who said it now, but I often feel they're right: that the left feels the only appropriate job is one at an organic farm commune that pays six figures.

But wait! Working the land, that could dehumanizing too, what doing work like machines or Chinese laborers! Guess we better just all sit around a bonfire and be 'human'. See how that lubricates the global economy.

On that note, wtf is a 'human' job anyway? The final destination of this lefty logic train to me seems to be going back to hunting and gathering. Everything past that, and maybe prostitution, are artificial human contrivances.

RE: It's definitely dehumanizing
By rlandess on 3/14/2012 9:54:45 AM , Rating: 2
Can't recall who said it now, but I often feel they're right: that the left feels the only appropriate job is one at an organic farm commune that pays six figures.

Sounds like Rush, or Hanity. Either way, it's idiotic. To say everyone who is on the "left" is some sort of tree hugging granola muncher is like saying all people on the right are greedy immoral scumbags that lack basic sympathy for fellow human beings while hiding behind the guise of Christianity to obscure their real motives.

The issue breaks down into two parts.

First, some people see it as dehumanizing a person to strap a mobile hotspot to a person and have them take donations for wifi. Were it not called homeless hotspots it wouldn't have drawn as much attention. The name highlights the fact that the hotspots are strapped to the homeless, as if the homeless person is a feature; an esoteric wifi mascot for hipsters.

The second issue is that people think that panhandling is an obstruction to recovery. If you're not working for money then you aren't progressing towards reintegration into society. Taking donations for wifi while standing around is somewhere in between panhandling and selling newspapers. It's better than panhandling at a stoplight but people apparently think it's not by enough.

I don't think I agree that it's dehumanizing or bad for a homeless persons recovery. But the objection people have to it is more thought out than you imply.

As far as leftists wanting us to go back to the stone age, I've never met one that wants that. Sounds more like the bitter rhetoric of a loud mouthed radio show host. Maybe a few people on the left want to live in the trees and larp prehistoric... But a few people on the right pretend they live in another time too , they're called Amish.

RE: It's definitely dehumanizing
By Qapa on 3/13/2012 4:29:42 AM , Rating: 1
You're plain stupid!

This is just asking you to give money directly to homeless people for wireless access.

It forces you to connect with "those people" and you, like a lot of people won't like that, because you don't like to see the faces of "those people"... you don't like to humanize them!

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