I have decided that I want my product to facilitate relationships between the houseless and other individuals. The current programs and organizations in place do a good job at meeting the immediate needs of the houseless, but it can be difficult to provide meaningful relationships with caring individuals which can be a great catalyst for change. I think the responsibility to treat the houseless like humans falls on us, the citizens of a community.
I want to encourage people who are inexperienced or nervous about approaching or being approached by a houseless person.
My concept is a deck of cards. Games encourage discussion, interaction, and provide a foundation for a relationship. Cards are portable. Cards are lasting. Cards have very little monetary value.
Part of my concept may include printing various things on the backside of the cards.
Some ideas include:
Testimonials from former houseless people
Tips for staying warm
Tips for eating healthy
How to use e-mail
Lately I’ve been reading Stories from Below the Poverty Line a first hand account of what it means to be a servant to the urban poor written by George Beukema. He expresses his concern for government programs and professional service providers when he writes…
“Three disabling effects result from the way service professionals market needs. First, a need is depicted as a deficiency rather than a condition, a right, or an obligation of another. Second, rather than placing the problem in its full social context, the situation is depicted as a lack on the part of the client. Third, the deficiency is defined in such a way as to direct the response toward professionalized service and away from the resources of residents and their community.”
Inspiring words. I believe my solution would be more valuable if it can somehow involve the community that these houseless belong to, rather than rely on government programs.
A chapter in Tony Compolo’s book “Speaking My Mind” deals with the harm well-meaning people can do when trying to help those in need. He references Ivan Illich’s views concerning this and specifically addresses groups of youth who travel to Third World villages to build schools and churches.
“The local people are awed but are also left with an increased sense of inferiority. These well-meaning young people may actually have contributed to disempowering the very people they wanted to help by leaving them with a sense that outsiders are the only ones who can meet their needs or solve their problems.”
In the words of my estemed professor, “chapambrose.com sucks!”
I aways seem to get to this point when blogging a project. It usually happens around the ideation phase, I guess it’s just such an internal dialogue that I find it hard to translate into words. I also feel it might cheapen the experience in some weird way, but that’s another conversation.
Coming up with concepts isn’t some mystical rain dance for me. I usually find it to be a very linear, problem oriented process. Discussing the issues that need to be solved and then blurting out the first thing in my head that would solve that issue. Initially most of the ideas actually create more difficulties than they cure, but through a meshing and melting of ideas, connections can be drawn and the “best” solution can usually be distilled.
For this project I feel particularly drawn to people struggling with substance abuse. This stems from my direct and personal relationship with B, a man literally dying because of his habits. This specific situation requires compassion and honesty. I can immediately throw out the “jacket that converts into a sleeping cot idea” not only because it’s trite and demeaning, but also because I fear giving something of value to a person who’s life is controlled by chemicals and whose focus is on the acquisition of those chemicals.
So they question I face: do I create a product with no outside value OR one with such personal value (such as family heirlooms and photos) that no individual would want to part with it, nor would it be worth anything to anyone else?
Saturday was a life-challenging experience for me. I met a houseless man named B. For reasons unknown to either of us, we clicked. I explained that I was a student and I was trying to understand what it’s like to be houseless. He told me he had been in Savannah for two months, on the streets because of bad decisions. He asked me if I really wanted to see true life for him. I did. He showed me–the wondering, the panhandling, the abandoned house he slept behind, the addiction, the bridge he went under to get high.
But more than that he shared his story. Told me about his wife and son. The work he use to love. The mother he hasn’t spoken to. The choices he made.
I’m not sure why he was so open with me, I’m not sure why I was so honest with him.