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: As the conversation becomes stagnant with questions and challenges, I will present a contribution to this that I hope will get everyone started up again. In this brainstorming process, we should not worry about conventional communication constraints, and just say things that come to mind, within reason:

    Here is my start:

    - make small houses outfitted for only a single person that can be easily maintained.
    - the houses must be durable, made of cheap material, and still offer appropriate shielding from the elements.
    - seek the use of cheap lighting, such as the solar powered light bulbs being used in poor rural areas across the world, especially Africa.
    - Possibly use the program as a means for green technology companies to prototype and test their products for free.
    - configure the homes to allow users privacy to help them retain or build on dignity.
    - create a scheduled environment that can be adjusted to their development speed, but impose a limit. The project is not meant to be a permanent residence. It has a purpose, and is intended to get them back to a mode of self-sufficiency.
    - Give them access to volunteer psychologists and psychiatrists who can determine if mental health is the reason for their situation, and attempt to teach the appropriate life skills necessary for their particular set of problems.
    - Allow them access to governmental entities that can find them housing in section 8 areas, or better.
    - Provide the volunteer homeless with education on local and national laws and regulations to improve their chances of not being involved in something that can lead to regression.
    - Provide social and etiquette training.
    - Provide access to free online education that will teach them basic knowledge (negating the need for onsite teachers)
    - Notify surrounding organizations of the program, and accept more volunteers (professional or otherwise) on a limited basis, with the requirement that they must contribute to the program.
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      Nov 26 2012: Usually questions and challenges are not the mark of stagnant conversations. I agree that once a thread is just one person posting to himself, that qualifies as stagnant.

      One thing I have noticed since I have participated in TED is that people don't tend to engage heartily in "follow the leader" structured conversations. In particular, if you adopt a style of judging and conveying your judgment to participants of what you see as the quality or helpfulness of their posts, some people will not care to participate further.

      And then you will end up talking to yourself, like a blog no one reads.

      At least that has been my observation of threads on TED. The most energetic and, I think, productive are those I would characterize as having shared ownership rather than a leader and followers. Thanking people for participating does not compensate.
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        Nov 27 2012: Questions and challenges are not the mark of stagnant conversations, you are correct. But when the questions and challenges are not productive, it is the mark of a conversation that never really started on a path to becoming stagnant in the first place.

        Feel free to go over the posts. You will see that I am very supportive and enthusiastic about the responses. My posts always answered the questions posed, and always ended with a question meant to perpetuate interaction. To make it easier, I have left posts for people to look at that specifically addressed their points. If they had true interest and the motivation to follow through, I am certain that they would have come back with something very helpful.

        Unfortunately, what I have experienced are the responses of those who are posing the aforementioned challenges and questions, but none seem to offer any information that supports their idea. The disappointing factor is that it appears that it reduces their participation to that of someone who, like I mentioned in another post, is harassing in a Yahoo! chat room.

        Case in point: You were the first to respond. I offered an explanation of my idea, as well as the perspective that I was approaching it from. In my studies, this is a standard approach. By telling everyone that there are no good or bad ideas or suggestions is indeed true, but there were none offered. This unfortunately includes your case, where you only offered some personal experience in dealing with the homeless with which to base your assessment. I wholeheartedly agree with your advice that I should work with the homeless, and I will do so. I think it is a great idea. However, to get a clearer picture of how you came across the information that you base your assessment from, I asked very basic, simple questions. Your response to that indicated that you were caught off guard by it, and that is okay. I have extensive experience in dealing with people in all manner of scenarios,
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        Nov 27 2012: and I do not expect you to have done the same. But when I engage you as a person who does have that experience, and ask you questions based upon that, it is my hope that you will understand the productive outcome of what I am trying to do. If you are unable to immediately provide information to my questions, my assumption also is that you will take the time to formulate a response that can be helpful. This is the nature of what I have been doing for years, even previous to college. If you have a strong opinion, deliver it with tact, and deliver it with knowledge. With the right people, they will all understand that none of us know everything, but that we have the ability to find it out. That's confidence and productivity in some of its best forms. After all, we all know what they say about opinions and how everyone has one...

        I must admit - part of this exercise was not just to practice the innovation or development process, or even just to see if by reaching out, some of us may network for future endeavors. It was also to see how people would react in a situation where someone attempts a legitimate effort to help something that many feel is taboo, or even hopeless. As I said, this is what I have done for a very long time. My first internet interactions as a child was through AOL, speaking to people in Europe and asking them questions on how they perceive Americans. I was 12 or 13 at that time. Now I am 31, have taken those studies very seriously and very deeply, and have presented knowledge in this discussion that I will still openly admit to being limited.

        I am ignorant, just like everyone else. The best I can hope for is to someday go out knowing just a little bit more information than the average person, so I can do my best to teach upcoming generations on how to deal with hardship and resistance, much like what was seen here.
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        Nov 27 2012: The most important factor for me however is that by engaging this in the manner that I did, those who will approach someone else with the same strong opinions may strive to produce just a little more effort than what they may have ever done.

        This has nothing to do with me presenting myself as a teacher or someone who should be directing you. This has everything to do with acknowledging and exploiting the fact that we are all teachers; that we all have pieces of information that we can use for our benefit. By collectively pursuing something with that knowledge, that is how real change happens in the world.

        I appreciate your time with this conversation. If it has truly become stagnant, maybe it is fitting that the thread begins with you, and ends with you. I wish you all the best, and I hope your desire for helping your fellow man can develop into helping your fellow man no longer need your help.


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