Letters: ‘Homeless Hotspots,’ illegal immigrants

Kai Ryssdal Mar 16, 2012

Kai Ryssdal: The alt music/movie/technology/everything else festival South by SouthWest in Austin, Texas, made news this week — and not necessarily in good way. A New York marketing firm rolled out a program using homeless people to sell wireless Internet access. The mainstream media question — here, at first, and elsewhere — became ‘Was it exploitative or not?’

We wound up talking to a guy from the firm who thought up the idea, and one of the homeless hotspots. They set us straight, as did Steve Butcher from Mad River Valley, Vt.

Steve Butcher: This is not an abuse of the underprivileged. It is a unique, maybe non-P.C., idea on a tried and tested theory: Help the homeless by offering opportunity. I hope that if I am ever in their shoes, I am offered a similar chance.

James Rosenthal from Schenectady, N.Y., said exploitation wasn’t the issue: It’s the attitude — our attitude.

James Rosenthal: As someone who’s worked in homeless services, I’m not surprised the “Homeless Hotspots” made people uncomfortable. This project was a challenge to people to overcome their discomfort and get to know another human being.

Finally, our commentary series this week asking regular people what they want out of this election. Immigration was the topic of the day yesterday. Our commentator said illegal immigration hurts the economy more than it helps it, since it takes jobs away from legal workers.

John Seiffer from Milford, Conn., says we don’t know. It takes serious research, he said, to determine if the cost of sending money back home and the cost of the deportation over the benefits of people who do pay taxes and often don’t claim benefits they are entitled to because they are illegal.

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