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Live Active Cultures

Urban ReThink's Collide*scope series presents an electric evening – and schemes a safe harbor for the homeless

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Their innovation is called "iCare," and it's intended to supplement existing programs (like the city of Orlando social services map and the United Way 211 help line). A sticker is affixed to the user's permanent ID and embedded with a QR code, which links to an online profile established with a social services worker. Smartphone-carrying donors could scan an iCare code and instantly deposit credits which could then be redeemed for lodging, food or bus passes (but not lost, stolen or spent on beer). Churches and volunteer programs could give out iCare points instead of handouts in exchange for attending classes or programs.

Most of the presentation was ably hosted by Jessup, with Dippy providing details and statistics. Seghers (who will be leaving Orlando for New York by the time you read this) spoke movingly about meeting "Jay," an HIV-positive panhandler with a gift for impressions and improvisation, outside a downtown club. And Segal, who helped found the Coalition for the Homeless, demonstrated both his interest in the issue and his sense of humor.

I was intrigued by the proposal, but I'm concerned about user privacy and the creation of a parallel economy that potentially further isolates beneficiaries. My caveats were echoed by "Jose," a self-declared former homeless man and current businessman, who spoke passionately (if somewhat incomprehensibly) about hopelessness exacerbating chronic homelessness. Jose became so agitated over alleged corporate indifference toward the indigent (Cameron Kuhn "went down like a piece of crap," he colorfully claimed) that he was escorted out, a first for this event series.

The next Collide*scope is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 8; in the meantime, this month's contributors will try to work out the kinks in their concept. Whether or not they're ultimately successful, I hope their efforts can help take the edge off Orlando's national reputation as one of the meanest cities toward the homeless.

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