Ideas. Cities. Social Innovation.

The company behind the controversial program at SXSW talks about what’s next:

Where we go from here is directly tied to how we wrestle with some complicated issues that any street newspaper attempting to deploy change will have to answer for themselves – issues we’ve come to sharply appreciate amidst all the debate. Our aim is to partner closely with these groups to utilize the lessons and best practices learned from this experience. Based on conversations to date, our shared goal is a sustainable model that continues to bring homeless people entrepreneurial opportunities that challenge stereotypes, derive purpose and create meaningful interactions with society.

I grew up on folk songs like “This Land is Your Land”. Springsteen, Rage Against the Machine, and Arcade Fire are three of my all-time favourite artists. Seeing this all come together is amazing.

Bruce Springsteen’s keynote at SXSW.

I weigh in on the hot topic:

There is that danger, that the company behind it will use this project as a prop. I suspect some of their motivation is self-promotional, but it may provide value regardless of their intention. The way to end homelessness is to provide housing and appropriate supports. This, of course, takes time; owing to this, and limited resources, it won’t happen for everyone overnight, which is why most communities employ a ten year plan approach to ending homelessness.

In the interim, initiatives like this can empower homeless individuals, allowing them to tell their story, hone skills that may help them in other areas, and raise some funds in the short term. They’re not the solution by any means, but they’re also not road blocks, and can add value when done right.

Neat idea:

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 “Homeless Hotspot” 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.