Austin Homeless Hotspots
The Homeless Hotspots program in Austin has garnered some critical press, like this story from Wired:
Okay. I’m going to resist the urge to rant about how turning Austin’s homeless into Wi-Fi hotspots symbolizes everything that’s awful about both South by Southwest and living in America in the 21st century. (RWW’s Jon Mitchell doesn’t; go read him.) I will resist the urge to rail against commenters at BBH Labs’ blog who complain that Homeless Hotspots hasn’t fully thought its own implications through because How do the ‘houseless people’ charge the units?, partly because 1) believe it or not, that guy goes on to makes some fair points and 2) as Dan Sinker said on Twitter, I don’t want my brain to catch fire.
A few things to think about:
- The people from Front Steps Shelter, who have teamed up with BBH labs and benefit from the arrangement, have a long history of working hard for homeless people. The folks from this organization are well respected locally and well-intentioned.
- Austin has a long history of support and engagement with the homeless. The death of a local homeless person, Leslie, made national news, because this individual influenced the lives of many of us in Austin.
Maybe BBH is doing this just for publicity, but the Austin homeless are benefiting. I hope the homeless hotspots campaign is taken as I'm sure it was meant by Front Steps; as a way to improve the situation for homeless people.
While the shirts were poorly labeled - "I'm a 4g hotspot" lacks humanity, the fact remains that these 13 people would have been completely ignored if it weren't for this program. The national conversation would not have included anything about homelessness and the humanity and dignity of the homeless this week.
If Homeless Hotspots really pisses you off, protest by donating directly to Front Steps Shelter, the National Coalition for the Homeless, or your local homeless organization. Put your money where your mouth is and leave a note in the comments section telling us just how much you donated, and to which organization.