Homeless Wi-Fi Stations Proves Provocative at SXSW

Program puts a human touch on homeless problem

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    NEWSLETTERS

    About a dozen homeless people in Texas have earned money serving as Internet "hotspots" during a music, film and interactive festival. (Published Tuesday, Mar 13, 2012)

    About a dozen homeless people in Texas have earned money serving as Internet "hotspots" during a music, film and interactive festival.

    They wore T-shirts saying "Homeless Hotspot" and appeared in Austin during South by Southwest.

    Tim Nolan with BBH said the advertising agency knew Monday's experiment could be provocative.

    One homeless participant, Clarence Jones, said he did not feel exploited and was doing his job.

    The volunteers were paid $20 for the day to carry devices allowing them to offer 4G Wi-Fi access, in exchange for donations that they keep. They're associated with the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless, managed by the nonprofit group Front Steps.

    Front Steps official Mitchell Gibbs said the program puts a human touch on the homeless problem.

    "One of our clients said this morning, 'This has given me the opportunity to talk to people who normally would have walked right past me," said Gibbs.

    South by Southwest runs through Sunday.