TED Conversations

John Davis

This conversation is closed. Start a new conversation
or join one »

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.

+2
Share:

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • Nov 23 2012: This could go many ways, but the problem I see is the other people who care not about man. In fact, those who always have their hands out for big bucks and legal advantages No Welfare except for we porkers.
    • Nov 24 2012: George,

      Thank you for your response. As with everyone else, I hope you will continue to contribute to this conversation with solid information that we can all consolidate and use for this, or future, purposes.

      Although your perception holds that man does not care about man, my perception may be a little different. I believe that men do care about men, but over time, become accepting of the status quo. The status quo offers a blanket that provides a sense of comfort, but usually causes cognitive dissonance in many. I am not experienced in speaking with all children, but I can only offer my experience: when I was a child, myself and those I was associated with would often feel bad for the homeless. Being children, many do not want to look and feel weak, and our society places a heavy emphasis on that. Children do not know what those concepts really are, so it often leads into ridicule or avoidance of homeless people. However, as I said, deep down many children do not understand why another person is suffering, and has a longing to help. Obviously this only lasts as long as it takes until the next attention-grabbing event comes along, but I think you get my point.

      By adulthood, many have accepted that they are too busy with their own lives to care about the homeless. However, especially in the late 'teens, you will see many reconstitute their desire to be involved in social issues, and realities like homelessness, civil rights, politics, crime, music, and many others become important again. Unfortunately, once they have become that age, they are likely to repeat the same process many of us older are in - pay the bills and try not to get in arguments with the family.

      Given the chance however, many I have spoken to regarding their feeling on social issues (understanding people is something very important to me) clearly express that they would help if they had the time. There have only be a handful of people that expressed blatant
    • Nov 24 2012: selfishness, and not even all of those upheld their responses. I have seen some of them in situations to help another do so while appearing to have not thought twice about it.

      That brings me into another point:

      The rule of reciprocity. Dr. Robert Cialdini explores the concept of the rule of reciprocity by studying a group of Krishna Society members at an airport. His findings were surprising, as he discovered that by nature, human beings will feel obligated to return a nice gesture. Whether they follow through with that is another matter, but the study showed that once the Krishna Society changed their tactics on asking for donations by utilizing the rule of reciprocity, it was wildly successful.

      My point is that if man does not care about man, it may likely be because the two groups at odds have not done something for each other, and someone does not want to take the first meaningful steps. A past acquaintance of mine is a deacon at a church who focused primarily on struggling minorities. At one point she began to accept the homeless as well, and the effect was profound. The homeless began to congregate at her church, began to work together to make repairs, provided security for the church, and even developed a pecking order among them. They did what was natural - come together for a mutually beneficial cause, vie for power, then settle down and generate support and security. I will point out that this is on her word, because I never saw it personally. However, knowing who she was gave me respect of her opinion and I saw no reason to believe deception was involved.

      This case supports the rule of reciprocity. She provided them with something that she did not seek compensation for, they saw an opportunity, and then made the proper choices to attempt to retain their alleviation from discomfort for as long as they could.

      I believe that the rule of reciprocity can be applied to persuade men who previously did not "care" a way to change their
    • Nov 24 2012: perspective. I think that if we can restore the status of the homeless to those who have potential, many would have more interest.

      If need be, the point can be made that restoring the homeless as functional members of society can have a long-lasting financial benefit as well. If they are functioning members of society they can contribute more to the economy, which could potentially drive down healthcare costs, reduce requests for donations that many people hear so often enough that it drives them in the opposite direction, and, hopefully with this program, can also alleviate their concern about where their donation is going in case they have contributed. There are many other reasons and ways the rule of reciprocity can be a major factor in this, but we can leave that for open discussion.

      Your thoughts?

      Again, thank you for your response. I look forward to hearing what you have to say.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.