My brilliant idea on how to solve the homeless problem (at least in NYC)!

July 10, 2008          Comments (7)

I hate seeing homeless people. It makes me sad (and so grateful at the same time). And lately, I feel like I’m seeing them more and more.

So let’s solve the homeless problem (at least in NYC)!

One day, I hope to be in a position where I can make significant change with time and money. But for now, I have some ideas. So here is mine and it’s based on this great quote:

“God can only help those who want to be helped.”

1. We’ll have a group of volunteers that actually engages with the homeless. They won’t just give them food. That doesn’t solve the problem. “Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime.”

They will talk to them (if possible) and learn more about them. Most importantly, they’d learn if these people want to make a change and want to clean up their act and want help.

2. Once they decide they want help, they will be moved into a home; a gorgeous one with really nice amenities. I want to show them the possibilities this world has to offer. They will ONLY be allowed to stay in this home if they agree to detox. We must help them fight their addictions.

3. Once they complete their detox program and are completely sober – whether it takes several weeks or several months – (My main concern is that they are drug and alcohol free) they will begin a simple 1 week refresher class on life.

Most homeless people weren’t always homeless. So these people (once they are clean) will be able to learn and relearn how the real world works.

4. Since they are now drug and alcohol free (which is the biggest part of the problem) and a psychologist* has given them the thumbs up – they will be entered into our work program after completing our 1 week refresher class.

5. Our work program is simple. From 8 AM -6 PM (under close supervision to make sure they don’t fall back into bad habits) they will sit on the corner they used to sit on. This will give them a taste of how bad their life really was. And now that they’re sober, they’ll be able to appreciate how bad it really was.

6. Here’s where the big idea comes into play. Instead of holding a sign like the one above, the sign would have a company logo. Say for example, MyBodyTutor.com.

It would be a nice shiny sign with some indication on it that they are part of the ADG program (We’ll call it the Adam Drew Gilbert program for now).

7. Everyone loves an underdog and everyone loves to help people out. Especially, someone that is trying to get his/her act together. People appreciate that greatly.

8. Homeless people aren’t dumb either. They somehow always manage to be in the highest trafficked areas. This is perfect for businesses who want advertising/branding in high traffic places. It can be local or national companies.

9. Companies that advertise (and support the ADG program) would be seen in a great light. The world would know that they donate to charity and non-profits. Certainly a win for them!

10. It also has to make sense for the business dollar wise. And this would make a lot of sense. Each company that supports the ADG program would be the exclusive sponsor for a week at a time. That means that every rehabilitated person (hopefully as many as possible) would be holding the same sign all throughout the city. This would maximize exposure, frequency, repetition and ultimately, impressions for the company.

For example, you’d see MyBodyTutor.com all over the city for an entire week. In return, MyBodyTutor would have to pay a fortune; however, it’s well worth it because people are certainly going to remember seeing MyBodyTutor.

12. The rehabilitated people can even hand out flyers for the company and people would most likely be interested especially because of point 7 above – everyone loves to help someone who is try to get his/her act together and everyone loves to support companies that are doing good things.

13. After several months of earning money they’d be meet with a recruiter* and social worker* who’d help them find a job and place to live so they can become adults who contribute to society again.

Sure sounds like a win-win-win to me, eh?

Notes: The bulk of the money to run (besides donations) the ADG program and the facilities would come from the large fees we’d generate from each company per week. I believe on this alone we’d be able to sustain our operation, easily. It would be a very exclusive thing so companies would want to take advantage of this incredible ‘goodwill’ advertising opportunity.

The rehabilitated people would earn minimum wage. If they earn too much money there’d be no incentive to get out of the program. And hopefully by this time, they won’t want anything to do with their old self.

Also, as all humans talk – so will the homeless. There will be a lot of positive word of mouth.

Clearly, this isn’t flawless but I think it’s a good start and I think it has a lot of potential.

*Would be a volunteer who also gets the benefit of being associated with a great cause

Who’s in?



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7 Comments »

  1. Adam,

    Great idea – I’m always racking my brain for a realistic solution to this problem and this is the closest I’ve seen. My only question would be that I think in many cases you’re dealing with trauma that probably needs more professional help – either due to mental illness or their experiences as a homeless person.

    Similar programs to what you’re describing do exist, but with one caveat – big corporations (and therefore big time money) have no incentive to get involved other than for the philanthropic gain. Adding in the advertising makes it a “win-win-win” as you like to say, which means the program actually has a chance to get the money it needs to hire qualified professionals.

    Overall I think you have an AMAZING idea. I say let’s do it :)

    Comment by Adam McFarland — July 10, 2008 @ 10:09 am

  2. Adam – This is pretty brilliant. I really think this would work.

    When are you going to start this up – figure around 2020ish?!?

    Comment by LK — July 10, 2008 @ 10:10 am

  3. A bunch of great ideas, but here are some of my thoughts.

    1. When these homeless people are making minumum wage how can they do the following (1. pay for food, rent an apt., save enough money for a security deposit, purchase new clean clothes? Move fwd in life? )

    2. instead of basic jobs of sitting down with a sign or even handing out flyers (which usually annoys people) have you thought about having store owners pay the homeless to keep the street clean? sweep/ pick up garbage, shovel snow, even put a uniform on them and have them be an extra set of eyes and use them as a security guard?

    3. They obviously ended up in there situation for a reason. Money management was obviously one the biggest problems. I think you should teach them how to save, invest, and purchase wisely as part of the social work/recruiter part.

    These were the three that I just thought of while passing through, I am sure there is a lot more stuff to consider while putting this plan together though. Good luck with it and I think it has a ton of potential

    Comment by Mike Kaplan — July 10, 2008 @ 10:39 am

  4. @ Adam – Exactly, the main difference between my solution and others is that we involve large corporations who have big incentives here financially, socially, etc.

    Figure in 10-15 or so years we’ll do this? :)

    @ LK – Thank you!

    @ Mike Kaplan – Great points and thoughts. Definitely a very rough plan I wrote out, however, my thinking is that while they’re ‘working’ they are learning at night in the home.

    Also, they’d live in subsidized housing so that would help a lot as far as security deposit, etc.

    The thing with having store owners pay though is ultimately what is their incentive? That could happen now but it’s not. Yes – it’s nice but businesses (as they should) need a return on their investment of some sort…even if it’s just socially, but no one would know they did a nice thing by employing the homeless.

    Education and exposure is the biggest thing here. I want them to learn about the possibilities…

    Thanks for the great thoughts and ideas!

    Comment by Adam Gilbert — July 10, 2008 @ 1:48 pm

  5. “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”

    Pretty much the common theme I found with a lot of these people. Also if you put them all in a house (even a nice house) together, they all still think alike and they were given a nice house FOR FREE! Why work!?!! This is great!!

    Trying to enforce rehabilitation on someone with 40+ years of negativity ingrained in them is very difficult. That’s why I prefer donating time/money to children’s causes rather than people who (hate to say it) have a relatively little chance of succeeding or helping society.

    Also keep in mind the people you see on the streets are the bottom of the barrel. The ones who haven’t properly utilized all the free services offered to them (or think living on the street is better than those alternatives).

    As for trying to get people to attend a 10+ hour/day rehabilitation or work program is almost hilarious after doing my homeless experiment. It’s actually not THAT hard to see WHY these people are homeless.

    The most success stories usually come from religious organizations (I think). Telling a below-average intelligence person they’ll burn in hell for all eternity unless they do XYZ is pretty powerful stuff. A great way to get someone off their ass.

    As for the rest, good luck! I’m sure there’s great solution(s) out there.

    Comment by Nev — June 23, 2009 @ 8:58 pm

  6. I’m glad I found this post. I am in the position of ‘soon-to-be-homeless’ and thankfully I have hade a gradual few months to think of how to turn it into an opportunity rather than succumb to the negatives and give up on life. I have some relatively dramatic ideas of my own that are quite different but very synergistic to what you are diuscussing here. If these ideas are passing fancy then disregard, however if you are at least somewhat of an idealist who has the time and resources to pursue it then I do wish to talk to you. It seems like a good opportunity to think tank it as though it were a business about to launch ( because for me it is ). By the way I am not an addict, just a typical intellectual/semi-blue-collar kind of guy who thought the world as I knew it would never end. I’m in this for creative solutions, not ‘creative begging’. A man must have his dignity before a home can save him from what he is to become….

    Comment by Synergist — July 17, 2009 @ 5:35 pm

  7. This idea does not address the causes of homelessness, which are myriad, and it doesn’t offer a solution to homelessness at all. It is good to know that people are thinking creatively about the issue, nonetheless.

    Comment by sawyer — August 23, 2010 @ 8:55 am

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