Austin, Texas – UPDATE:
The program has been cancelled but BBH Labs a New York based advertising company said it was all in the plans to cancel the program today. The uproar from the homeless agencies probably brought this to a quicker end.
It has been uncovered that homeless people are being recruited as a promotional gimmick, to carry Wifi wireless devices, as they wander the streets of big cities. These small palm size devices that will fit into any pocket allow people to sign-in to their wireless devices, and pay a small fee ($2.00) to the homeless person carrying the hotspot device (MiFi.)
BBH Labs is responsible for this advertising program and a spokesman had a few words to say about it.
Not only is this in bad taste, it may be a serious medical concern to anyone carrying such a piece of cellular equipment. It is being launched in Austin, Texas for the SXSW film festival and turns homeless people into ‘infrastructure’ rather than real people. Sure, the money goes to the homeless person carrying the device, but what about the long term medical concerns for the human being?
There is serious concern from shelters such as Covenant House in Toronto which is the largest in Canada and assists youth from 18-24 and there are an estimated 10,000 on the streets each year.
Rose Cino of Covenant House said, “We are the largest shelter for homeless youth in Canada, and we offer a wide range of services to really support kids getting on track. When we saw the story we are concerned and disturbed that the homeless were being used in this way, we do feel that it is exploitive.” She went on to say, “We are really here to support and get kids back in school and get meaningful employment, so obviously this situation of using the homeless to market the product in that way, really is counter to our goals at Covenent House and what we are trying to do for homeless youth and get them on a path where they can live independently, and what they are doing is dehumanizing.”
Is this what society has come to, making human beings ‘walking hardware?’