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Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History: A Memorial for the Living

August 20, 2020

“We have a Memorial for the dead at Ground Zero, arranged according to their relationships. And we have a Memorial for the living in Jacksonville, a scatterplot of the homeless arranged according to their needs, two memorials with the same intent. Because when we add context to names, names become real.” – Malcolm Gladwell, A Memorial for the Living


Malcolm Gladwell visited Jacksonville, Florida to see a scatterplot. He wanted to understand how the community was working to end veteran homelessness by knowing each individual by name. At the heart of this data-driven method, employed by communities in Built for Zero, is an understanding that we must take anonymity out of homelessness to end it. We must understand each individual experiencing homelessness, their needs, and take accountability for ensuring they are able to be housed.

As Gladwell noted, “the fundamental condition of homelessness is invisibility. Those on the streets are the easiest to ignore and the easiest to forget. The scatterplot reminds us who they are, what their lives are like, what their needs are.”

Hear from Built for Zero leader Dawn Gilman, the CEO of Changing Homelessness, and colleague Charles Temple describe how this approach has radically changed their efforts to end veteran homelessness. And hear a stirring description of what similarities — and differences — we see in what he calls memorials for the dead and living.

Listen at Spotify, Apple, or at the Revisionist History website.

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