Homeless people have become Internet hotspots at SXSW through a partnership between the festival and Front Steps. They can make money through PayPal donations, and the idea behind it is that it’s more useful to attendees than selling newspapers. It’s edgy and certainly controversial.

I like it*. Each hotspot’s success – like any other enterprise – is largely determined by the money it nets and the function it serves. The money earned is currently unknown to me, but the purpose of the business is completely viable. Ethics are also an important determinant of sound business, and despite criticisms that this partnership is dehumanizing and horrifying, it doesn’t feel nearly as second-class as dudes in Rx costumes outside of pharmacies at flu season waving people inside AND nobody is forced to participate! Plus, for people who enjoy interacting with people and are good at it, this certainly could be both financially worthwhile and enjoyable. I’m curious what these employees have to say about the experience when it’s over, but I am comfortable with this innovative approach to helping homeless people productively earn money.

What do you think?

* based on what I know about it; I am not experiencing this in person

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