TED Conversations

John Davis

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Rehabilitate the homeless in America by using simulated environments with guidance by volunteer professionals from a variety of fields.

"Why are we helping so many poor people all across the world when we have so many homeless people here at home?" This is a common question that seems to never be answered. Is it cognitive dissonance? Is it apathy? Is it the worry of more costly social programs?

I believe in the innate goodness of people, and I believe we see it in each other every day. So why is it still a problem?

What I propose is that we work together to alleviate the suffering of others in this country by creating simulated towns that volunteer homeless can come to. By training them to maintain a hygienic existence, obtain simulated work and pay, and allow them to shop in stores stocked with donated items, we can reintegrate them into the real world again. This process would be guided by volunteer counselors, psychologists, nutritionists, financial specialists, law enforcement, and anyone else who is willing to donate their skills for creating a better future for those we all know we deeply care about. This environment could also serve as a free means for students of all levels, globally, to see constructive altruism in action. We would also welcome them as volunteers, where they can obtain real experience that could help them in their respective career-or even life-choices.

There are many innovative products being used today in developing countries that could make this program very inexpensive. By establishing a non-profit or charitable trust organization, we can assure that all donations go straight to the program.

Besides just offering our time, I believe the homeless are the key to reaching unprecedented wisdom and innovation possibilities in this country. Their unique perspective on hardship could serve to help us eventually regain our country's status as a beacon of hope for the struggling all across the world, and we can take what we know elsewhere and help all who need it.

The hope is for a restoration of pride and meaning. Both in the homeless, and in ourselves.


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  • Nov 20 2012: I think that is a very interesting problem and your solution is interesting as well. I have a passion for helping others so I understand your need to figure this out. A simulated environment is a cool approach but I think our world right before us is wonderful enough. We should, instead, get companies and volunteer involved in a single problem focused on giving them jobs, having cheaper products, etc. This way, we utilize the environment we have around us and get more people involved. This could be an easier transition into living on their own.
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      Nov 21 2012: Nicole,

      Thank you for replying. As with everyone else, I hope to keep you in this conversation by making sure you know that this forum is for discussion, and we require ideas. This means that all communication is valid, but please make it something that we can use.

      To address some of your concerns:

      We do currently have many programs that help the homeless, but it does not seem to lead to a dramatic change. Often, it seems that the specialization among all of the organizations that help do not stay connected to maximize the transition potential. So how do we offer a comprehensive location that they can come to where they can be connected and stay connected?

      As for cheaper products, the unfortunate part of that is that we are a developed country, with citizenry who has developed country tastes. The focus on creating quality products that can help the poor does not generally happen in a substantial way that is beneficial to people like the homeless. If there are products that are currently in the market, many of us do not know about it.

      I will say this:

      Reverse innovation is the process in which a developing country takes a more expensive technology from a developed country, and creates something that is far more tailored for their average market. They do this while driving down the cost of the product, which often forces developed countries to match them to stay competitive. This is great, as it benefits the billions of the people worldwide who live in poverty conditions and provides them with a higher standard of living at prices they can be happy with.

      But I ask this: if a homeless person has no access to the cheaper products because they have no money to buy it any cost, what good does it do them?

      As for the world being wonderful, I agree. Unfortunately, there are many in low to no-income situations who do not. We have to tailor the program for their needs, not ours. The overall purpose is to bring them back into ours if they desire it.

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