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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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