Everyone and a Roof: the Audacity of Imperfect Realism

EDAR featured on CNN

Last week, a co-worker tipped me off to the EDAR (‘Everyone Deserves a Roof’) — a mobile, multi-function shelter for the homeless.  It folds into a shopping-cart-like structure that can be used for mobile recycling (a major income source), and it deploys into a tent-like raised bed in less than a minute.  It costs under $500 to make, a pittance compared to the cost of building and maintaining shelters, and it appeals to many people who are wary of or unable to enter those shelters in the first place.  Its unique function and unlikely story have caught the attention of several news outlets, including video features put together by CNN, ABC, and the LA Times.

Domestic homelessness and is a huge, abstract problem that has at least one major difference from other huge abstract problems, like climate change or terror: if you live in any remotely urban part of the world, you literally and personally encounter its face almost every day.  It is possibly the only great social problem that is, in some capacity, not solely mediated for majority of the general population.

And yet, humanizing the homeless is hardly a daily occurrence.  Consciously acknowledging the deeply complex problems that exacerbate their plight is even more rare.  Something seems oddly novel about seeing homeless people interviewed on TV; hearing EDAR founder and movie producer Peter Samuelson chat with them like any other co-worker; watching the word ‘homeless’ appear under their names in the super with the same implied legitimacy of a public official or an eyewitness.  The problem suddenly becomes, if just for a moment, more difficult to drive past with a rolled-up window; less easy to brush off with callous feelings of superiority and uninformed allegations of what is and isn’t deserved.

The EDAR is, at best, a band-aid.  It doesn’t address the root problems of homelessness, it raises all kinds of legal and policy issues, it’s exploitable, and it’s far from a best-case scenario for fully integrated social services.  But it’s a bold, unabashed and intensely practical solution that completely bypasses circular discourse and challenges complacency.  It does something, today.

It’s a lesson for all of us interested in big, abstract problems.

2 Responses to “Everyone and a Roof: the Audacity of Imperfect Realism”

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  2. 2 Jackson August 28, 2014 at 10:41 pm

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thoughts at the collision of business, brand and creativity

I'm Ryan Cunningham. I help companies and culture play nice with each other. At CREATURE we call this Brand Strategy, a term that carries a nice halo of reliability and structure. Here, I'm just another guy who thinks about the world and writes it down from time to time.

The result is a pile of knowledge to be used in, and for, the future. Feel free to sift through the heap for useful connections.

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