It sounds like a headline from The Onion, but it’s true: A project called “Homeless Hotspots” is turning homeless Austin residents into mobile wireless hotspots outside the South by Southwest convention center.

It’s part marketing stunt, part genuine charitable initiative — and it’s generating lots of double-takes and chatter from those who pass by.

“I’m Melvin, a 4G hotspot,” reads the T-shirt of participant Melvin Hughes. “SMS HH Melvin to 25827 for access.”

Hughes is carrying a Verizon MiFi 4G hotspot. Texting his code sends back his network password, which the recipient can use to suck down a few minutes of fast broadband access — a scarce commodity at SXSW, a tech/film/music gathering that has drawn more than 20,000 visitors to Austin, Texas.