MIT student shuts down HoboJacket, apologizes to the homeless


Founder Jin Pan said his site that made fun of rival schools by donating their jackets to the homeless was “insensitive.”

The MIT student who wanted to help homeless people by sending them your rival college’s jackets in an effort to keep warm has taken down his controversial HoboJacket website, citing insensitivity on his own part.

“I thought I had a clever idea for leveraging existing college rivalries to raise money to provide warm clothing for the homeless,” site founder Jin Pan wrote in an apology now available on the HoboJacket homepage.

“I did not actually understand that my gimmick was dependent on objectifying the homeless. The site’s so-called edgy manner was designed to spread quickly, but I realize now that it also allowed my insensitivity to go viral.”

Pan’s site, touted as “a competitive platform where you can donate your rival college’s jackets and shirts to the unfortunate because it’s terribly unfortunate that people actually went to that other college,” came into the world this week and immediately became a controversial talking point in media circles.

The site, which had facilitated the purchase and eventual donation of more than 660 jackets in its first two days, hailed itself as “the politically incorrect but right thing to do.”

Apparently a little time and perspective changed Pan’s motto. This morning, he lamented his decision to take the site live, writing that he wished he could rewind time to Sunday before HoboJacket was a real thing.

“But time is irreversible and I’ve learned a hard lesson,” he wrote. “I’m sorry that I offended so many, and I’m disappointed in my own lack of judgment. I especially apologize for using those who can’t as easily speak up for themselves.”

In the meantime, Pan told Boston Magazine that he is asking each of the site’s donors what they’d like for him to do with their money. He said that he’s willing to pay their donations forward to any charity or needy source the original donors prefer, but that he’d refund their money through PayPal if they ask for him to go through with the donation of a college rival’s jacket.

If they don’t respond to his inquiry, he added, he’ll refund the money through PayPal as well.

Photo via Jin Pan/LinkedIn

Chase Hoffberger

Chase Hoffberger

Chase Hoffberger reported on YouTube, web culture, and crime for the Daily Dot until 2013, when he joined the Austin Chronicle. Until late 2018, he served as that paper’s news editor and reported on criminal justice and politics.