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 21 2012: What a ridiculous waste of funding, tax-payer dollars, donations, etc.

    What's the use of a simulated town? What's wrong with the REAL WORLD?
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      Nov 21 2012: Mikey,

      There seems to be a lot of concern about segregation:

      Let's take a quick look at Merriam-Webster's definition of segregation:

      : the act or process of segregating : the state of being segregated
      a : the separation or isolation of a race, class, or ethnic group by enforced or voluntary residence in a restricted area, by barriers to social intercourse, by separate educational facilities, or by other discriminatory means
      b : the separation for special treatment or observation of individuals or items from a larger group
      : the separation of allelic genes that occurs typically during meiosis

      The negative connotation that you seem to be applying is one that is commonly applied to other words in English, such as with "militia" or "gun". Segregation is something that you do on a daily basis. If you go to school, you go to a classroom. That's segregation. You are being removed from a larger group for a purpose. In the history of civil rights and war, the word is synonymous. Not in this case.

      Also, let me remind you of the concept being delivered in the idea I have presented:

      It is *volunteer*. If a person wishes to utilize housing as a means to achieve more stability and a better peace of mind, they are welcome to do so. There is no indicator that shows it is mandatory. Now, reminding you also of the text limitations that the TED website imposes on the posts, the full picture cannot be painted until we engage in dialogue. So, your question is very welcome and I appreciate the opportunity to get into it. For more explanation on why it is an important aspect of the program to have, please read over the posts. If something specific is not answered, please feel free to contribute to the discussion and lead this with a great question that we can all contribute to.
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      Nov 21 2012: Responding to your comment about how it is a waste of money, did you read the full idea? It would be run by a non-profit or charitable trust strategy. With that in mind, I cannot really respond to your assessment that it is a waste of money other than by saying that the dollar I earn is the dollar I choose what to do with.

      Now, I would like to keep you in this conversation, and listen to your ideas. Like I have said to other people in this post, the point here is to present a problem, then brainstorm it. To do so requires the perspectives of people from all different backgrounds. Please lend some helpful ideas to make this idea reach a point of "sink-or-swim". By providing useful insight on your opinions by expounding on them, we can find a way to work around it, or accept it as something that must be addressed.

      I look forward to your response.
      • Nov 23 2012: Yes i read the full post, and regardless of this idea being "non-profit" or run by "volunteers" doesn't negate the fact that there is a cost.
        There is always a cost. I didn't think i would have to break it down, but:
        - On what land will you build this town?
        - Who will build the houses, schools, etc?
        - Can the time spent doing this volunteer work be better spent somewhere more productive?

        And I do not understand the point you are trying to make regarding segregation. Are you saying that segregation is good? You want to create a separate town to segregate these homeless people? Why?

        Also, the fact that I disagree with your idea doesn't mean I necessarily have one of my own, or have to have one. Yes, homelessness is a problem. I just think creating an artificial town would be a massive waste of resources, and any benefit that would be gained would be disproportionate to the amount of resrouces needed to go in.
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          Nov 24 2012: Mikey,

          I'm glad you're starting to ask appropriate questions. Hopefully you will maintain this, and we can bring this down to a constructive conversation.

          My response:

          - There is cost associated with absolutely everything in life. If you are asking how the program would be funded, I would ask that you research the structures of non-profits and charitable trusts. Once you have done so, I may be able to provide you with a better answer if you provide a more substantive response.

          - I do apologize if I am coming off as uninformed and require your explanation. Your tone indicates that you must be very experienced in this, and I am sure that anyone involved in this conversation would be glad to accept your wisdom. Try steering this conversation with questions and comments that are substantive so we all start thinking more productively. It would be a great learning experience.

          To respond to your questions:
          - As it has been posted, which I am sure you are aware of because you have read the entire post, is that there is a process concerning innovation and development. We are in the brainstorming phase. Regardless of whether I have a choice location or not is immaterial to the fact that this is the inappropriate stage to speak of it. It would only serve to throw the beginning phases out of line.

          - Who builds them is a matter of finding volunteers. A more appropriate question would be to ask about what we would build, for what purpose, in what configuration, and if what we have decided on has been researched to the point that we have been able to successfully develop a working prototype for testing and feedback. Beyond that, I will aim to point you in the right direction, in hopes you will begin to do some research that can really contribute greatly to this discussion: http://www.economist.com/node/18618271
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          Nov 24 2012: - "More productive" is subjective. Those who volunteer are the ones who determine what is important to them. Beyond just having the simple right to choose where they would like to devote their time, can you provide us all with a list, comprehensive or otherwise, that substantiates why this endeavor is "less important" than others?

          - "Massive waste": Can you provide me with a verbatim recitation that indicates the scale of operations? Also, your assessment that it is a waste of time indicates that you must have further wisdom or knowledge in how what I have proposed is in fact a waste, leading me to believe that you must be highly qualified in many areas such as in time management, quality control, resource management, and many others. Can you please present your work, or cite your sources so we can bring this past the level of opinion and into the realm of fact?

          As I have said, this is to engage in a brainstorming process, which means we must get as many perspectives into this as possible. However, they must be substantial, or we cannot maximize the value of this process.

          Thanks again for responding. I look forward to your next set of responses.

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