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 24 2012: john, what do you mean, there are many innovative products being used today in developing countries that could make this program very inexpensive? It sounds pretty expensive no matter how you look at it.
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      Nov 24 2012: Greg,

      Thank you for your reply. Looking at your profile, it shows that you have or are attending Stanford, and I hope your knowledge can be a great asset in the beginning phases of discussing this idea.

      My reply:

      As with a few others involved in the post, I would like to emphasize that scale of operations has not been discussed. It is easy to explore that aspect when someone thinks of the rather large homeless population that exists domestically and abroad, and I understand how that leads to a feeling of grandiosity. However, I propose that as the idea still sits in a stage of infancy, and in a brainstorming phase (which has not been constructive overall), we focus on helping a single person, and then work up from there. What I will say is that if you are familiar with Vijay Govindarajan's competition (http://www.economist.com/node/18618271), this is a start in a search for domestically innovative or internationally (reverse) innovative products that can help drive down cost. There are many more products available, which I have information on, but I am trying to give those who are interested enough in this conversation to reply the ability to present information that they are aware of. As I have said in other posts here, I am less concerned with whether the idea is a success or failure, and more concerned with the effort that we put forth to try and develop something. If we do so, we all stand a much higher chance of creating a new or revised idea that is feasible. So far, I appreciate the efforts of Fritzie Reisner, as we have received information that could be potentially helpful in taking this another step forward, sink or swim. I am also looking for more than just information. I am looking for those who will be less judgmental about the idea, and more productive in determining success or failure with meaningful discussion and questions. Those who will engage in a respectful and tactful exchange that can lead to more open-mindedness,
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      Nov 24 2012: which could also help those who gain a positive experience from this to possibly develop, or assist in developing, another idea that can help people.

      I believe that this is the perfect forum for this. My hope is that this site is seen for what it is meant to be, and not reduced to the level of a Yahoo! chat room. I often find in many people's responses a very negative tone that serves only to express their distaste without providing any substance. That is not helpful, and we should strive to be more than that. If you browse at another link I provided to a presentation by Steven Johnson that explains some of the process involved with innovative thinking, it may give you a clearer sense about what type of exchange I am striving to get here. I also urge you to watch some of his TED videos.

      I am a naturally patient person, so I am not concerned about people's desire for me to produce all information that they think I should produce. If I do so, I will diminish the value of what I am trying to do. Instead, I will wait for those who are willing to engage someone in something different, and not push aggression and contradiction on others that they may have received by others on these forums, to their disappointment.

      Again, thank you for your response. Please feel free to contribute in any way, and please do so constructively. I would like to also say again that in a brainstorming phase, there are no wrong answers, comments, or questions. However, this freedom should not negate substantial thought. It should serve as a means to produce creative thinking.

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