A story about Prague . . . from the Spanish press, from La Vanguardia – but Twitter is a many-splendored thing that way. But first, just appreciate the photo, taken on Prague’s Charles Bridge about a week ago – the statues, the ice-fog in the background so you can’t even see any sky.
What is of significance here is the figure at the lower-left: the beggar crouching in the snow. An enterprising young Prager by the name of Luboš Boleček has come up with an innovative way to help such people. They spend a lot of time hanging around on the streets, right? At the same time, other people walking in those streets – people with the wherewithal to own a smartphone – are frequently in search of a WiFi signal, right?
Why not give the homeless person a WiFi repeater, so s/he can create a useful WiFi hotspot where s/he stands? The tourists and other people in search of a WiFi signal thereby benefit; but so do the homeless as well, in the sense that they thereby provide a useful service which justifies and might attract sponsor’s funds, which can then go to providing these people with the sort of services useful for helping them get back on top of their lives and re-entering society again as full and fully productive members. (Any funds go in the first instance to public transport tickets, lunches and toilet facilities which enable them to go about this WiFi hotspot task.)
I suppose those inclined to look on the bad side might dismiss this project as an abuse of the homeless as a sort of city furniture – or some such – for visiting tourists. In Boleček’s reasoning, however, it is much more along the line of the “homeless newspapers” you often find such people peddling on the street: again, an escape from merely begging outright for money in favor of attempting to offer some real value-added in return. Maybe it’s time to update that “homeless newspaper” paradigm, he suggests: people don’t read much anymore in any case – at least not anything on paper – so the rationale for such newspapers is fading and it’s time for something new.
Boleček’s project is admittedly off to a stuttering start, as he is still looking for private or public funds to enable him to fully get going with it. As he says himself, you’d think some telecommunications company would be glad to step in as a sponsor. Anyway, you can learn more about it on the website he has set up, which is also in English.