A marketing project aimed at modernising street newspapers is turning homeless people into walking internet hotspots.
The brainchild of branding company BBH New York, the Homeless Hotspots ‘initiative’ was spotted at a music and technology conference in Texas by a New York Times reporter, the Daily Mail reports.
Homeless people dressed in T-shirts proclaiming ‘I’m a 4G hotspot’ stood amongst those gathered for the conference to provide web access through MiFi devices which connect to the internet via the 4G phone network.
Despite profits from the exercise being donated to charity or the willing participants of the project, the idea has been described as ‘shameful, hideous, patronising’ and ‘dehumanising’.
On its website, BBH says its Homeless Hotspots project is aimed at bringing street newspapers into the digital age : “Obviously, there’s an insane amount of chatter about this, which although certainly villianises us, in many ways is very good for the homeless people we’re trying to help.”
At homelesshotspots.org, the project is described as “a charitable innovation initiative – it attempts to modernize the Street Newspaper model employed to support homeless populations.”
“As digital media proliferates, these newspapers face increased pressure. Our hope is to create a modern version of this successful model, offering homeless individuals an opportunity to sell a digital service instead of a material commodity.”
BBH bills itself as an “independent, full-service creative company specializing in brand strategy and multi-media communications for our clients. We are truly committed to the power of big enduring brand ideas built on simple, human truths.”
Visitors to homelesshotspots.org can donate to the Front Steps Shelter or pay participants directly for internet access at a suggested price of $2 for fifteen minutes.