Homeless Men Turned Into Human Routers

SXSW, the annual vanity carnival of schmoozing, marketing superficiality and barbecues, has something new to offer Austin's visitors: unalloyed human degradation. A New York ad firm has converted homeless people into 4G hotspots.

While the firm behind the stunt, BBH, was quick to defend the horrendous exploitation, FWD reports:

"The worry is that these people are suddenly just hardware," [BBH] said, "but frankly, I wouldn't have done this if i didn't believe otherwise," [BBH] added, "we're very open to this criticism."

Lucky to be "open to criticism", because that's all the "campaign" has turned up. Although this is ostensibly about giving the homeless money -- BBH says they keep all the proceeds from those who pay for 4G access -- it's categorically awful, and all for the convenience of SXSW's widely well-off patrons.

But it gives the homeless jobs! Yes, as would using them as human coffee tables, or hunting them as game, or having them dance for nickels in Superman outfits at your next dinner party. Working as hotspot is worse than not working at all. [FWD]

Image: Hardly Normal



    This is disgusting.

    It's a fine line between getting them standing on every corner trying to sell you a copy of the "big issue" (of which they keep half the money) and getting them to sell you 4g access (of which they keep all the money). I'm not sure what the point of outrage stems from, what am I missing?

      Where do you draw the line? This doesn't get these guys into a clean bed, or a job. It doesn't get them off their drug of choice and it doesn't get them off the street! Does it..??

      +1 it seems exactly like what they do with the "big issue". I think the idea makes some sense, but it had very poor execution; i.e. calling it "homelesshotspots.com" doesn't do much for a positive image.

        But calling it the "homeless" hot spot raises awareness of the issue of homelessness.

        Rather than them hiding in alley ways they are at least made to look a bit more respectable with the clean(er) clothing they are given and puts them out for people to see as well as giving them money which they don't have to steal.

          Yeah cos we all love the smell of a junky or wino that hasn't bathed, ever, on the corner of the street where you have to stop and wait for the lights.

          Heh +1 I can see people complaining because the advertisements on the corner smell like piss. :)

      The difference here being (if I read the article right) that they get *none* of the money from the 4G sales the business keeps all of it, that fact alone makes it exploitative, at least the big issue lets them keep some. I'm generally of the opinion if your running something like this that uses it's helping underprivileged groups of any kind status to promote itself it should be run as an NPO otherwise people will get exploited. This actually could be a great idea as an NPO with all the profits filtering back to the homeless but sadly doesn't look like that's the case here :(

        reread sounds more like the company lets them keep all of it...in that case seems mainly charity. So yeah like others posted fine line definitely and when run by a for profit corporation the behind the scenes number crunching needs to be very transparent, too easy for it too be used as cheap labor/promotion more than charity.

      The big issue, as I understand it, only exists to help homeless and disadvantaged people. So presumably the 50% that it keeps goes to running and expanding the program. This on the other hand is a marketing gimmick that will be over in a few weeks to months.

    what a great idea. one job homeless people in the third world do is act as street vendors. go to Manila and you'll find a zillion street vendor. in western countries suburban/city laws forbid only very limited forms of street sales (I guess to protect the retail sector and due to thr tax implications;- 3rd world vendors sell a huge amount of material given half the chance as its all tax free).

    I am all for this

    It does sound bad, but I think that what most people forget is that homeless people often have mental disorders that prevent them from living normal lives or have debilitating drug habits. Other times, it can just be that they don't fit into the regular work patterns/living patterns of the rest of society. Helping them earn a bit of money isn't so bad, especially if it's the latter, society definitely needs more flexible employment for people, but at the end of the day, some of the money should go to mental health services. I mean no sane person would want to live on the street and not bathe. Something is wrong there!

      That's a little bit presumptive, Deb. Do yourself a favour and spend a day helping out in a soup kitchen. A lot of homeless people are just average citizens who are down on their luck. People who, for whatever reason, may not be able to raise enough cash for the bond on rental accomodation. While mental health and drug use is often a factor, it is often exacerbated by the conditions, and not the cause.

    I don't think it's any worse than say - paying someone to dress up as a giant hamburger. Which I see all the time. Homeless people need money and I think that it's probably far less degrading for them to do this then go up to people and beg. Plus - there's a level of accessability to the Homeless people that an ordinary router doesn't have. It makes the internet accessable to blind people through the power of smell.

    No, it doesn't get them off the street. It doesn't deal with what psychological issues they may have. It doesn't solve third world poverty. What it does do is give them a J.O.B. They do a relatively simple day's work for a proportionate pay - the way most people work. Nobody's making anybody do it. It's not begging, it's plain and simple work, and the site draws attention to a good cause by showing you that your money is helping others. If I was looking for cash, I think it would be a great idea.

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