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March 8, 2012

Homeless Hotspots is a charitable experiment that is launching at SXSWi this year. Last year, while at JWT, I helped to bring free BBQ to the visiting advertising masses, this year it felt more fitting to give back to the permanent residents of Austin.

This program’s intent is to modernize the Street Newspaper programs that have in the past few decades proved to be a successful model. The issue however, is that like any print publication, these newspapers are under duress from the proliferation of digital media. How often do you see someone “buy” a paper, only to let the homeless individual keep it? This not only prevents the paper from serving as a tool for the individual to avoid begging, but it proves how little value people actually place on the publication itself. Yet the model isn’t inherently broken. It’s simply the output that’s archaic in the smartphone age.

This year in Austin, as you wonder between locations murmuring to your coworker about how your connection sucks and you can’t download/stream/tweet/instagram/check-in, you’ll notice strategically positioned individuals wearing #HomelessHotspot t-shirts. These are homeless individuals in the Case Management program at Front Steps Shelter. They’re carrying MiFi devices. Introduce yourself, then log on to their 4G network via your phone or tablet for a quick high-quality connection. You pay what you want (ideally via the PayPal link on the site so we can track finances), and whatever you give goes directly to the person that just sold you access. We’re believers that providing a digital service will earn these individuals more money than a print commodity.

We’re using SXSW as our beta test. Hopefully you can help us optimize and validate this platform, which we hope to see adopted on a broader scale. Any and all support is appreciated (including donations from afar).

Addition: As of the second day there have been hundreds of thousands of media impressions, over 78,000,000 Google Search Results, and  has reached 13,736,154 people as of March 14th, 2012. This issue  has by far has become the most spoken about topic to come out of #SXSW since Foursquare.

53 Comments leave one →
  1. rsmithing permalink
    March 12, 2012 8:22 pm

    Hi Tim – cool blog you have here! I came across your post in researching one of my own on the Homeless Hotspot story. I personally think it’s an interesting idea. I write about it from a PR angle, given some of the ridiculous backlash happening now, and would really appreciate your perspective in the comments at my post, if you’d care to share. Peace.

  2. March 16, 2012 2:21 am

    Thanks to you R Smithng. Sorry but I have been extremely engaged with global media requests due to the enormous amounts of requests over the last 72 hours.

    • rsmithing permalink
      March 16, 2012 12:33 pm

      Absolutely. Remember to eat and get some sleep in what must be a crazy time right now! 🙂 I wasn’t at SXSW, but I actually donated to Dusty White after hearing him on Marketplace radio where Saneel was interviewed the day before. Know what he said?

      “It’s not what you achieve in life, sir; it’s what you overcome.”

      Wow. I understand you all sort of courted controversy, and I explore that from a PR angle in my blog. I also updated it with Saneel’s words after he got out there. And if this quote is any indication, hopefully something bigger and positive will come from it all. Best of luck to you all.

    • January 8, 2015 6:30 am

      Apaplentry this is what the esteemed Willis was talkin’ ’bout.

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