In a bizarre marketing stunt, New York marketing firm BBH and Texas based homeless advocacy group Front Steps have created the Homeless Hotspots campaign. The initiative sees homeless people carrying 4G LTE MiFis and changing people for access to wireless internet on the go. There’s no set rate, although the website suggests a fee of $2 for 15 minutes of internet access.
Thirteen homeless attendants are carrying LTE MiFis outside the SXSW conference in Austin, Texas. They wear t-shirts advertising the Homeless Hotspots service, and will allow people to use the internet connection for a small fee. According to the campaign, all money given goes directly to the homeless individuals.
The reaction so far to the stunt has been negative, with various conference attendees saying that the situation is “dehumanizing” and “offensive”. Front Steps, however, believe different, saying:
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.
The idea does at first sound horrible, but if money is going directly to the participants in the hope of securing housing in the future, isn’t that a good thing? There is no large corporate sponsorship here, just local individuals trying to better themselves through an odd scheme and making some money in the process.