If you were to line up all the causes I wish I could support more, Homelessness comes to the front. It’s not that I think it is more or less worthy than others, but it feels like something we should be able to make more progress against.
Every time I go into my neighborhood QFC, I pass between 1 and 3 homeless people asking for money. One man stands at the front of the store with a “Homeless Vet” sign, one woman sits across the street by the parking lot and occasionally there is a representative from “Real Change.” Clearly, we can do better than this as a society.
Now, there are a couple of problems that we all face. If we write big checks to a charity that helps with homelessness, we don’t know where the money goes and if it is being used to help people get out of their situation or just make their situation more tolerable. If you give money directly to a person, you don’t know if they’ll spend it down the street at 7-11 on a bottle of Boone’s.
So here’s my dumb idea that will likely offend a bunch of people.
I would like to try to focus some efforts on the homeless who are closest to climb their way out. The people who have cleaned themselves up, paid their debts to society or taken other steps to get back to a position where they can succeed. There are plenty of people who just need that little burst of cash to get the first and last months rent, a nice set of clothes, a moped or bus pas, or whatever is keeping them just 1-2 degrees from that point.
So how do we do this? I’d like to propose a kind of combination of Anonymous LinkedIn and Kickstarter managed by some reputable organization. In this system, i could look at the anonymous profiles of everyone who is applying for personal donations and what they will be need the money for. They set personal goals and achievements that they need to hit. With each success, they get closer to collecting their donation from me and the others who are rooting / supporting them. The reputable organization then makes the purchase of the apartment, clothes, car, whatever on behalf of the client.
So in a nutshell – the homeless person “earns” the money they need by achieving some set of goals and objectives, people like us get to choose the unnamed profiles we want to support based on our preference, and there is a group in between making sure everyone stays anonymous in the process.
I can already hear the 100 reasons this is unfair to a whole set of people and not a solution to a massive problem. But I’m not trying to boil the entire ocean here. I’m just trying to help a few people out. Anyway, that’s my latest dumb idea.