Realizing that these billboards are usually located right where homeless people are likely to gather, 53 strategically selected billboards throughout the city are now used to serve the community. “From what we gathered, most homeless people in Stockholm know where there are shelters, but during these emergencies, they don’t know where the new ones will be, and the new ones fill up quickly,” David Klagsbrun, head of communications at Clear Channel, told Co.Design.
On cold nights, one of the ad slots in the regular ad loop on these screens is automatically replaced by two messages: one showing directions and information about the nearest (available) shelter, and another displaying information for volunteers – including items most needed for donation, from coats and sweaters to toothbrushes. These public service announcements are displayed for free. Clear Channel doesn’t receive any revenue from them.
Although a formal evaluation will be carried out this month (after a three-month pilot), the initiative seems to be a success – both in terms of directing homeless people to shelters and in mobilizing people to respond to the needs of their fellow Stockholmers. Since starting the project, Clear Channel has received feedback from the shelters stating the arrival of many fresh faces but also an increased amount of donated items, compared with previous years. These positive effects could mean that this smart city technology will be replicated not only in other Swedish cities, but also in other countries – and thus be of great support to the European homeless community.