Treating the homeless with dignity

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idth=”300″ height=”259″ />I admit, I walk over the drunken natives and strung-out meth-heads in Toronto. Fuck ‘em. There’s plenty of help out there if they want to clean up, and since most of them don’t, let ‘em rot.

Then there’s the ones who get or are clean, have fallen on hard luck, and need a gentle nudge in the right direction. I know those people. And unfortunately, due to a bad relationship, I was one of them for a while.

I lived in a shelter and ate stale, donated food. I cleaned the bathroom twice a day, after cutters and transvestites had dirtied it, in exchange for a weekly allowance of $27. I took the help that was on offer and then got out as soon as I could.

I’ve also thought it was ingenious here in Toronto when hipster douchebags paid street people $20 to stand in line overnight for an XBox 360 or an iPad. Rather enterprising from both sides, don’t you think?

But this story out of Austin just rubs me the wrong way.

At SXSW [South By South West], the annual tech startup conference in Austin, 13 homeless men are hanging around the conference center wearing white shirts that say “I’m _____, a 4G hotspot.” Each is carrying a wireless internet device, and for a PayPal donation, will provide conference-goers with internet access for as long as they want.

Homeless people, wired up to provide WiFi to the same kind of hipster douchebags mentioned above.

Why am I so comfortable with one, but not the other?

Perhaps because the line-standers were being paid a set amount for a set time, up front. It wasn’t a matter of “If anyone logs into your HotSpot, you’ll get paid, otherwise no.”

Maybe it’s because BHH is a company, not a savvy individual, and it looks like the big guy is exploiting the little guy.

These guys wearing the HotSpot t-shirts are not the Lost; they are the ones who could be saved with the right kind of assistance. I just worry that making them furniture for the hip and fabulous sets them back like blacks before the lunch counter demos.

The hipster lefty assholes who flock to SXSW are just the kind of navel gazers who like to feel like they’re doing something, without actually having to do anything at all.

(I said “hipster” three times in this post. I really, really fucking hate hipsters.)

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