Homeless as “wifi hotspots”?

Homeless Hotspots is a charitable innovation initiative by BBH New York. It attempts to modernize the Street Newspaper model employed to support homeless populations.

Interesting concept of capitalism in its most basic form. What do you think? What are the social and ethical implications to this?



March 12, 2012 · 10:43 am

17 responses to “Homeless as “wifi hotspots”?

  1. cameron coleman

    I think that it is a very tactful method to try and raise money. A Wi-Fi-hotspot is a widely used commodity in our society. The idea of selling the service in order to raise funds is a good idea. I am not sure how effective the entire project would be all together. Wi-Fi hot spots are free and easily attained nearly everywhere you go it seems now. However people who are donating to this cause actually get a service instead of just a tax right off. Over all I think it is a very good idea. Helping the homeless is very important and with the job market being as it is this is a very intelligent idea to help them out and give them a “job”. Giving them something to look forward to doing would be a great bust to their moral I’m sure.

  2. Wesley Andrews

    I think it is a good idea to raise money for the homeless but this product will hard to sell. As said before, Wi-Fi is a very important commodity in our society but it is very easy to come by as well; there is plenty of demand but plenty of supply as well. Because the demand equals the supply there probably wont be very many people looking to get this service. Also people are very critical of their internet service, we want the fastest and the best right now, so if these services are at anyway inferior to the internet service they already have the consumer will most likely not buy it. This idea is a step in the right direction though, we need to find something that appeals to this age of technology. This product may be it for now but I am confident that something else will help take this idea to the next level.

  3. Grace

    I think that in theory this is a good idea, an outreach of sorts in order to help the unfortunate unemployed. However, I believe that because of the excess of panhandling in America today, there will be much hesitation in supporting this effort. The people profiled on the website are all sympathetic characters, and I think that donations may be more profitable than the actual business that they are trying to sell. Since the actual product is paid for by donation, I do not believe that the profit will be substantial. I think it is okay to try and help the homeless in this way, but I think that the larger picture may have been overlooked when creating this idea.

  4. Beth Slawik

    I definitely commend these people for trying to help the homeless. I cannot imagine what it would be like to not have a house. I do not believe that the government should act as our nanny and provide us with everything we need;however, I fully support individuals that try and assist people in crisis. I know it can be argued that it is indeed some people’s own fault that they do not have a home but in many cases people live on the street because of no fault of their own. So that being said I really support this idea. It definitely will not fix the problem and might not even put a dent in the number of homeless people. But any bit helps. Personally, I do not think selling wifi is the best route to raising money. I think selling a regular newspaper would actually be more beneficial but I still like the concept. So kudos to the founders of this project and may we as Christians also be on the look out for ways to help our fellow brothers because you never know when you will be entertaining an angel unawares.

  5. Grace~ what do you think is the larger picture that has been overlooked? Wes, Beth and Cameron~ I’m curious, do you see any ethical implications to this activity?

  6. Sam Tierney

    While the prospect of helping the homeless is a wonderful goal to have, this particular plan might not be the best idea. Wifi is a very important thing in our society today, but I feel that this method is not going to bring the results that would be needed to keep it running. There would need to be a huge amount of publicity to raise support and raise awareness of this plan. However, even if they did get the needed publicity, most people today already have internet included with their phone network plans, so there is only a smaller percent of the population that would actually have the option to purchase the wifi. These are just a few factors that would be problematic for this plan to truly work. It is a nice idea, but I just don’t think that it would work out as planned.

  7. Bo Valcin

    First of all, I believe it is our responsibility both morally and ethically to aid our fellow man as much as possible. IJohn 3:17-18 and scriptures alike testify to the fact that we should not keep worldly possessions to ourselves as if we are storing it forever but we are to share and give that others may see the love of God in us. Now this idea I believe could aid the shelterless but then would it not begin to affect others who are employed with the newspaper company? Secondly, how effective would this project be when considering we have so many homeless people in the Tampa area alone? It will help but I believe there will still be more needed to even begin to tackle the problem. Overall though, it will bring the knowledge of the homeless right into the homes of people who otherwise never considered the less than fortunate people.

  8. Brent Kirkley

    The goal of this idea is magnificent. Helping the homeless is always worth a valuable thought. I believe that this idea is unfortunately a mere thought though. It may work, but more than likely it will not. I feel that this will not work due to how much technology has already advanced so quickly. In no time technology will skyrocket even more. The latest and greatest thing technology seems to come out so often now days. The one thing I like the most about this though is that it will spark ideas for people to help the homeless find work opportunities. Also, it will help show which homeless people are the ones truly looking for help.

  9. Jedidiah Sturgis

    I did a little digging and found some additional information on it. My take is that it is a great business plan for the company, however it is not so great for the homeless. First off it doesn’t pay enough to get them off the street. Thus it reinforces their current way of life. Even if it did pay enough to get them off of the street into a house, then what? They would no longer qualify for the program. So instead of creating an incentive to search for a better job they are creating an incentive to remain homeless. So ethically I don’t think what they are doing is wrong, because if someone agrees to work for a certain price that is up to them. The fact that they are going from no cash income to some is an increase in their state of life. However, I do not see it as being affective in the way it claims it will. At best it is a company get cheap workers to provide their services, at worse they contributing the longevity of the current situation.

    • I think you are on to something here. This parallels my main issue with endeavor. The nasty side of capitalism seeks its own benefit many times at the expense of others. It also often does so under the guise of benefiting others. However that perceived benefit turns out only to produce wealth for the investor, leaving in its wake a multitude of problems. I believe that is what we have here. These people are being treated as an object, no more than a cell tower. When it is no longer beneficial, they will be replaced. Worse yet, this company is banking of the sympathy to the homeless to further their capitalist pursuits. How is that any different than profiting off of tragedy? It reminds me of that TV show/movie that paid homeless people to does silly acts so they could laugh at them. It’s degrading and solves nothing with regard to these people’s plight.

  10. Gabriel

    I really thought long and hard about this and really do not think the article offers enough information about the product for me to be able to make such a judgment call. I tried exploring their website to find more info but found none. Going on the statement “offering homeless individuals an opportunity to sell a digital service instead of a material commodity” gives the closest to a direct statement concerning what this is all about. Is it saying that the homeless will be given wireless routers/hotspots which people would have to pay them to use? If so then I would lean to opposition of the idea. God created man and placed the importance of work within him. (Gen 2:15) Money is needed but it should be the fruit of his labors. (II Thess 3) Being a walking/sleeping/leaning (existing) hotspot is not work. Wireless is not so hard to find that we cannot wait till we get to work or home to use it.

    I hope that I understood the article correctly because if I did not this is going to sound really stupid. Due to a fear of this being the case I will not expound anymore.

  11. M.Main

    This article is very unclear about the way the finances are taken into account. I tried to do some research on this topic, and even the updates and clarifications given by BBH Labs at http://bbh-labs.com/homeless-hotspots-a-charitable-experiment-at-sxswi proved to be somewhat convoluted.
    BBH states that they provided” a $20 cash ”stipend” to the volunteers each day regardless of their own sales. This is the cash amount that was handed to them each day while the program was live.” They were advised by Front Steps shelter, an organization dedicated to moving people off the streets into permanent housing. Front Steps has a program in place that helps the participants save about 2/3′s of their income toward their housing goals. So, yes, they are trying to break the homeless/jobless cycle. It is wonderful that people are getting involved in helping each other. However, the majority of the money that is coming into this project is from donations, not from work expended. This is not money earned for a service. Ethically, there is no pride in a job well done. This specific program does not instill a need for a change of lifestyle. Socially, this program could easily become just another of a string of handouts, howbeit, in a unique form.

  12. Jaeden Darity

    I believe it is great that there are initiatives being taken to help the homeless or “houseless.” Seeing that our society does use technology, wifi, and the Internet more than books, newspapers, etc., it is a way to reach that population, as well as still provide help for the less fortunate. The only question I have is how well this commodity will do and market. While wifi seems to be essential to daily life nowadays, it is also easily accesible through mobile hotspots from cell phones, mobile Internet cards, etc. I do hope that a balance between the hotspot and tangible newspaper is kept to best meet the needs/wants of all parties.