Feature: Social Goodness

Punishing the Homeless

Author: Lorraine Esposito
Published: March 15, 2012 at 12:18 pm

No good deed ever goes unpunished.  Whether originally expressed by Oscar Wilde or someone else, the truth of the statement is being demonstrated in the media right now over the Homeless Hotspot issue in Austin, TX.

The Good Deeds:

  • Provide the needed Internet access to thousands of SXSW  convention goers.  Responding to the calls for service, BBH New York found a solution with a heart.
  • Offer homeless people the prospect of earning money, connecting with people, and feeling self-respect and hope again.  BHH invested equipment, mentorship, training, and created the infrastructure of support and publicity to enable homeless people to profit in this opportunity. 

The Punishment

  • Criticism levied upon BBH for duping the homeless with a “demoralizing” exploitation of their need to earn money.
  • Deny the privilege of employment.  Media pressure forced BBH to cancel the project three days early.
  • Humiliation and victimization of the homeless at the hands of the media, not BBH.   

The Critics Who Punished

CNN, held a righteous debate. While acknowledging that BBH’s opportunity may very well be the only way a homeless man might be able to “subsist for a while and sustain his life,” it was wrong to do so.  The Washington Post questions morality saying, “If we cannot see the difference [between homeless selling newspapers vs. selling Internet access], then as a society we have truly lost our moral compass.”  And then Fox News joins the mob with this statement about the logistics of the transactions with these homeless men,

“All you do is approach the poor rube, give them some money and then...stand near them...and answer your e-mail. You can talk to them, I guess. 

Continued on the next page

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Article Author: Lorraine Esposito

Lorraine Esposito is a Professional Certified Coach (PCC), Mentor Coach, nationally recognized author, and coach training instructor for the world’s largest coach training organization. She has been featured in broadcast, print, and online media and …

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