The last day of hoodie distribution for 2013 was December 22nd, although technically the last hoodie was given out on the 23rd, as I’ll explain. Tom from Mad Bitcoins joined me again, this time with two gentlemen from his sponsor AlphaLion Technologies. We were also joined by Teresa Warmke from Fr33Aid and her two daughters. Together we joined dozens of activists from Project FEED, easily three times the number of volunteers as last month, for a truly stone soup day of giving. In addition to the hoodies from our generous contributors, and the hundreds of bag lunches from Project FEED, we distributed another 250 tooth brushes from Global Grins, 200 pairs of socks, and a few dozen blankets gathered in an impromptu donation drive.
Early in the day, while we were making sandwiches and assembling bag lunches, I was approached by one of the organizers from Project FEED who informed me in hushed tones that during the month between distribution days one of their volunteers had spotted a homeless person with a stack of our Bitcoin hoodies, selling them on the street. He wanted to make sure that all the volunteers understood that each person only got one hoodie, which was our instructions at both distribution days. I for one don’t see this as a bad thing. I don’t know how this homeless person acquired a stack of our hoodies, but once they left our hands they became the property of the recipient. If they want to sell them, that’s their prerogative. And if some enterprising homeless person wants to collect them and sell them, so much the better, as long as he acquired them peacefully and voluntarily.
Because of the huge increase in volunteers, I didn’t actually get to hand anything out myself, except brochures. By the time I wrapped up sandwich making all but one box of hoodies were gone, and the AlphaLion guys snagged that. So, I mostly took photographs and talked to people.
The reason I say the last hoodie was given on the 23rd is because the next day I attended an Occupy San Francisco End The Fed rally to commiserate the 100th anniversary of the Federal Reserve Act. I saw it as a perfect opportunity to pass out our Bitcoin Quick Start Guide, so I threw on my own Bitcoin hoodie and went to spread the word about the war dollar’s greatest competitor. Most people had heard of it, but didn’t know a lot about it. Super activist, Starchild was speaking at the rally, and helped me hand out the brochures.
While handing out brochures I gave one to a man named Robert who’d never heard of Bitcoin. After my short elevator speech he began handing the brochure back to me and said, “What good is digital currency to me. I’m homeless. I don’t have any money.” Funny he should ask. I proceeded to explain the entire campaign, and the mission of Bitcoin Not Bombs. How the war dollar actually impoverishes the people that use it, and why an alternative currency like Bitcoin can be a powerful tool for lifting people out of poverty. In the end, I gave him the hoodie off my back. Check that off the bucket list. He was so surprised by the gesture that he took the brochure and read it on the spot.
You’d think I would be too cold in a t-shirt in San Francisco at night, but no. I popped into a 24 hour Walgreens and grabbed a new sweatshirt for like $7. Thank you market!
Thinking about this final encounter really helped me articulate what the #HoodieTheHomeless campaign has been about for me. Yes, it’s about keeping people warm, but it’s about so much more than that.
The constant and unwavering criticism that armchair activists have volleyed in our direction is that they disapprove of “using homeless people as billboards.” And I have been consistent and unwavering in my dismissal of this complaint, because the imprint and the brochure were never intended to advertise a product to consumers. They were intended to advertise Bitcoin to the homeless people themselves. We are saying to the recipients of these hoodies, “Look what Bitcoin made possible. Look how much the Bitcoin community cares about you.” And hopefully, like Robert, that gesture will ingratiate them enough to explore what other opportunities Bitcoin can offer them.