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Computer programmer teaches homeless to code

Last December, a man named Leo Grand created a ride-sharing app that ended up earning him a modest sum of money.

This, in and of itself, is nothing unique. However, Grand was homeless, and had learned to code only four months prior to the launch of his app. A few weeks after the launch, he had made about $10,000.

But today, Leo the Homeless Coder is still homeless. He has yet to touch a penny of his money.

When his app launched, he was center of national attention. No one has followed up on Grand. Grand and his teacher Patrick, the 23-year-old programmer who taught Leo how to code, haven’t really wanted media attention.

But the second half of their story is as important as the first. It provides deeper insights into the mindset of a homeless person, and the challenges with trying to find quick, easy solutions for people.

It’s a much more complicated story than anyone would have expected.

When Patrick Met Leo

Last summer, as Patrick McConlogue walked to work every morning, he would notice a homeless man on his commute to work, lifting chains diligently in hopes of getting some exercise.

That man was Leo Grand, and for nearly three years he had made a home for himself on the streets of Manhattan’s West side. McConlogue, a programmer for an educational startup, saw in Grand a certain drive that he thought, with help, could be applied elsewhere.

An Opportunity To Learn And Teach

It was then that McConlogue took to Medium with a blog post titled “Finding the unjustly homeless and teaching them how to code.”

McConlogue’s plan was simple. Offer Grand $100, no strings attached, or the opportunity to learn a skill: coding.

If Grand wanted to learn how to code, McConlogue would provide a few books on the subject, a cheap but durable laptop computer and charging accessories, and, most important, daily lessons every morning before McConlogue was due at his office.

It would be a real test of the old adage “give a man to fish.”

The Medium post was widely criticized.

Sam Biddle of Valleywag said “surely Patrick will realize this is degrading and horrible.” Time’s Jessica Roy (formally of The New York Observer’s Betabeat blog) wrote that the “homeless are not bit players in your imaginary entrepreneurial novella.”

Regardless, Grand took the opportunity to learn, Patrick followed through on his promise, and a friendship was born.

Leo Learns To Code

Business Insider followed the two men as they began their journey. We attended a coding lesson in an NYC public park on chilly September morning. We wrote about their setbacks; Grand had been arrested for trespassing, sleeping on a bench after that particular area had closed to the public for the night. McConlogue set up a Facebook group for Grand; there are nearly 70,000 fans.

And we, along with the “Today” show, covered Leo’s app launch.

Yes, after a few months of rigorously learning how to code, defying the critics that tore apart McConlogue’s first Medium piece, the two men in December 2013 released Trees For Cars, a ride-share app that Leo coded all by himself.

The premise for the app was this: For $.99, download Trees For Cars (available for iPhone and Android). As a driver, simply pick a meeting address and the app will suggest nearby riders. Then, each rider and driver are connected only if they choose to mutually accept the invitations. The app tracks how much CO2 was saved by the passengers who got rides with others.

Money And The Success Of Leo’s App, Trees For Cars

Trees For Cars saw about 15,000 downloads across both Apple and Android stores, bringing in about $14,000 dollars. Various cuts to the stores and platforms themselves add up to about 30%, leaving Grand with a little under $10,000.

The money is in McConlogue’s name.

“We set it up in my name because I have a bank account. The deal was, at the end of the day all the money was Leo’s. Not mine,” McConlogue told Business Insider.

But the homeless coder doesn’t have a bank account, and for the time being and, for whatever reason, doesn’t want one. Which means the money is sitting in limbo, unclaimed and unused. And it means that Grand, every night, even in the brutal cold of this past winter, curls up on a park bench or underneath scaffolding, and sleeps on the streets of Manhattan.

A few times, McConlogue encouraged Grand to go to the bank and see what they could do to help him set up an account. They never made it more than a few blocks before Grand insisted on turning around.

McConlogue could, of course, withdraw Grand’s money and hand the cash over. But both Grand and Patrick agree that that’s not a good idea.

McConlogue gave Grand a deadline.

“He has a year to find a way, be it with a bank account or proxy, to claim his money, every penny, from my account. If he doesn’t want to do that, I told him to pick a homeless shelter and we’ll donate it.”

Baby Steps

Grand isn’t ready to open a bank account, claim the money, and start the process of rejoining society. After all, a life on the streets is the life he’s lived now for several years. Claiming money, ownership of an apartment, of valuables, thinking about insurance and jobs is far too stressful. Humans are creatures of habit and routine, and though homeless, Leo Grand is most certainly human.

Mitchell Netburn, the president and CEO of Project Renewal, an organization that helps the homeless access resources to help them rejoin society, spoke to Business Insider about why Grand may be resistant to claiming his rightfully earned money.

Netburn doesn’t know Grand or his situation, but says it’s not uncommon for homeless people to be paranoid about joining “the system.”

“They don’t always understand how banks work. Who has access to them. Who can track them. It’s overwhelming,” Netburn told us.

“It’s also about pride. Banks often need proof of address, or copies of Social Security cards and birth certificates. Homeless people don’t necessarily want to walk into a bank and declare out loud that they live on the street,” he adds.

McConlogue once asked Grand what the worst part of being homeless was. The answer?

“It’s lonely,” he said.

Back To School

There are things Grand does want to do, like continue to learn how to code and develop, because, as Grand says, he “actually really likes coding.”

And so, a few days a week, he walks to 5th Avenue to attend coding class at TurnToTech.

TurnToTech offers 12-week programs in various coding languages, and they gave Grand a scholarship to attend.

He started his second program earlier this month. He’s also taking writing courses and tells Business Insider he enjoys writing about politics.

‘We’re Still A Team’

Many people assumed McConlogue, young and maybe a little naive, wouldn’t go through with his plans to help Grand. Many criticized him for thinking he could save the homeless en masse by teaching them how to code.

But McConlogue says he and Grand are working with various organizations that provide help and counseling. He even tried to get Grand set up with room and board, though it was a deal that unfortunately fell through.

If it sounds like a saccharine fairy tale or a Lifetime Movie producer’s dream, that’s because it practically is. Check out the Facebook page where strangers from all over the world send their encouragement, advice, prayers, and wishes.

One man even created Trees For Cars-themed T-shirts and hoodies, all proceeds going to Grand. They sold out.

The whole point of the experience, or at least the goal when the two started out, was to teach Grand a skill that would help him make money to sustain a life off of the streets.

But if you want to get technical, the original goal has yet to be reached: Patrick taught Grand how to code and, though successful, the man is still sleeping on park benches and on flimsy cardboard boxes.

Patrick McConlogue, for all intents and purposes, did not “solve homelessness.”

The result seems to echo the statements made by the project’s biggest critics — not everyone wants to be saved. Fixing homelessness is a lot more complicated than everyone thinks.

For everyone who has declined a homeless person a dollar or two because they should just “get a job” — it’s not that simple. Does it mean you should empty your pockets on every corner? Of course not. But empathy comes free. And in the case of Leo Grand and Patrick McConlogue, teaching a man to fish won’t feed him for life, unless the man is willing to pick up the fork.

It’s a political Rorschach test — you can see in it any conclusion you want to see: The homeless want to be homeless; the homeless want to be productive members of society; coding skills really do help homeless people; coding will not cure homelessness.

“Is it difficult? Yes. Do I want it to be different? Yes. Am I walking away? No. We’re still a team. He’s a friend now,” McConlogue tells us.

And Grand, who holds McConlogue in the same regard, says he’s happy.

 

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Little Rock woman helping homeless weather the storm by giving away umbrellas

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) — With a heart for the homeless, one 20-year-old from Little Rock felt called to help those on the streets weather the storms.

According to a 2016 government study, there are about 2,500 homeless in Arkansas. So far, Torey Harrison has had 180 umbrellas made, with plans already for another shipment. Each reads “Under His Umbrella.”

That’s the name of the new organization she felt she needed to start.

“Hi,” Harrison said as she handed out an umbrella. “It’s supposed to rain tomorrow. We’d like to give you an umbrella.”

“It beats getting drenched in the rain,” said John Peterman.

In November, Harrison was driving home to Little Rock when she saw a man in the pouring rain on the street.

“I felt the stabbing feeling to go back and do something for him,” said Harrison

He rejected her offer of a $10 bill.

“I was like ‘well there’s something else I had to do’ and I had two umbrellas in my back seat so reached back and got one and handed it to him and the biggest smile appeared on his face,” said Harrison.

Then, she knew the impact an umbrella could make.

“I want them to know that the umbrellas will shelter them from the elements outdoors but God is their main umbrella,” said Harrison.

In a short few months, more than $2,000 have been raised to create “Under HIS Umbrella.”

“All we can do is show them that we love them,” said Harrison.

She’s already handed out more than 100.

“I did not know it would get started this fast but, I hope to spread throughout the country and get umbrellas in every state,” said Harrison.

She has almost run out of her first order of umbrellas, but has no plans to stop. To donate to her fund click here. To get involved you can also visit the “Under HIS Umbrella” Facebook page.

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This is Victor: Woman helps homeless man build a new life

KEMAH, Texas – A Clear Lake chef is using Facebook to change the life of a man living on the streets.

Victor Hubbard spent three years at the corner of Nasa Road and El Camino Real waiting and hoping his mom came back to get him.

“No matter what season it is, I will always have that love for her,” Hubbard said.

This winter, his warm smile, kindness and graciousness touched another woman.

The married mother and owner of Clear Lake’s Art of the Meal passed Victor four times a day until she had to know why he stayed there in the same spot, rain or shine.

“It really began to concern me and then I talked to a lot of people in the community and a lot of people wondered what was the deal,” said Ginger Sprouse.

So she got to know all about Victor, the mental illness he battles and then shared it all on a Facebook fan page called “This is Victor.”

“I would drive up and he would say ‘How are you doing today?’” said Sprouse. “’Are you doing okay? Don’t ever let anybody do you wrong.’ Seriously, he always asked about me.”

What happened next pricked the hearts of 8,110 people on Facebook.

Those fans gave Victor a free eye exam, food, clothes and hundreds crowded his block party fundraiser.

Sprouse got him into mental clinics, prescriptions and hired Victor to keep him off the street.

“She came around and she kind of saved me,” Hubbard said. “She helped me. It’s like grace.”

All of it happened so that Victor could find his family. Thanks his Facebook page, an uncle called then drove from east Texas to see Victor.

Two days ago, Victor reunited with his mom too.

“I got to talk to her and I really feel like I accomplished something,” he said.

So does Sprouse, whose work to help a stranger landed her business one top-notch cook and an inspirational friend she shares with her community.

That is Victor now.

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Walpole Police Ticket Children For Good Behavior

WALPOLE (CBS) – Walpole Police Officer Paul Lagoa was busy patrolling the streets of Walpole Wednesday, when suddenly he saw a Jeep he wanted to pull over. But this traffic stop is not what you might expect.

“We saw your son stand by your side and walk with you to the car and he held your hand,” Officer Lagoa said to the woman he pulled over.

Officer Lagoa is targeting six-year old Jack in the backseat, not for something bad, but what he did well.

This is all part of the Walpole Police chief’s new initiative called “The Positive Ticket.” When a kid does something right they want to celebrate it.

“When they realize you’re more than just the badge and the blue shirt, it just melts your heart,” Officer Lagoa said.

So Jack will get an ice cream coupon to Scoops in town and he’s not the only one.

Arna was holding his mom’s hand crossing the street.

“Next time you go to Scoops you bring this card and tell them Officer Paul sent you and you get a free ice cream,” Officer Lagoa said.

The kids can hardly believe it. But the lights and sirens catch some by surprise.

Nine-year-old Marty was riding his bike and thought the worst.

“I thought that I was going to get in trouble,” he said.

But instead, he gets an ice cream for wearing his bike helmet. But it was meeting a real police officer that seems to be the real treat.

“I’ve never gotten to talk to a police like this,” Marty said.

“To put a smile on a kids face like that it’s priceless you can’t ask for anything else,” Officer Lagoa said.

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Spoiled Kids in Walmart. Epic temper tantrum. Self Control Fail. Total mayhem rotten little bratz

Sweetie were not getting a toy right now I want one put that down ok put that down lets get ready to go bye bye but I need a toy do you need a toy really put that down but I need this one I know but grandma’s gonna get you a toy later lets put that down ok I want it awe my goodness really lets put that down now put that down London come on Lily I want a toy I want a toy lets go put that down put it down I want a toy put it down I want a toy put it down I want the toy I want a toy we will pick a toy from the front of the store I want a toy I know but we’ll get a toy from the front of the store look how look how big London’s being he’s such a big boy and what are you being? A baby? I don’t want to be a baby you don’t want to be a baby well then put your shoes on and lets get ready lets go I want a toy we’re gonna get you a Jack-o-lantern I want a toy though ok we’ll get a toy later but not right now get off the floor London I want one come on lets go get on the basket I want a toy I want a toy I want a toy well maybe somebody else can get you a toy but Grandma’s gonna bring you a toy sweetie but Daddies not getting you a toy right now we’ve got tons of toys at the house your gonna get a toy for Christmas I want a toy awe ok

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Woman Whose RV Burned Gets Helping Hand From LAPD Officer

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Los Angeles Police Department officer Sean Dinse was  driving home on a recent Wednesday morning when he saw plumes of smoke in the distance.

He was off-duty, but nonetheless decided to follow the smoke to its origin: a smoldering RV that was completely consumed by flames.

“I really didn’t need to stay because the fire department was there, but something said to stop,” he said.

That’s when he saw Anna Jacobson, the owner of the RV.

“I saw her on the ground, balled up — just crying,” he said.

Jacobson had only arrived in California a few weeks before, and the fire destroyed all of her possessions except for her social security card and some cash.

The blaze had started innocently, she said, after she dropped a candle. Right away, the curtains caught fire and soon enough the rest of the RV was charred.

Jacobson escaped without major injuries but lost “pretty much everything,” she says.

But she was soon to catch a lucky break, since Dinse, who has worked extensively with the homeless on Skid Row, was prepared to help.

He started by calling officers with the LAPD’s homeless outreach program. He insisted that Jacobson needed housing right away.

“If it’s someone who is truly homeless and needs help, we should be able to get them help immediately — not two weeks from now,” he said. “We should be able to make a phone call just like I did that day.”

Jacobson was placed in an apartment that day, but other challenges still awaited her.

For one, she needed to get back to work, but her hair was badly burned in the fire. That’s where Woodland Hills hair stylist Heidi Sheaks came in.

She saw a post on Dinse’s Facebook post about Jacobson and offered to help.

“We always feel better when our hair is done,” Sheaks said. “I just gave her some TLC. It just needed to be trimmed up and cleaned up and freshened up.”

Jacobson said she’s profoundly grateful.

“I would never have expected a lot of what actually happened to me,” she said. “I thought everything had crashed down and I didn’t know where I was going to go from there.”

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Good Samaritans stop attempted robbery of 76-year-old woman

Security video shows a 76-year-old woman being attacked outside the Winn-Dixie on University and Goldenrod. A group of Good Samaritans come to her aid.

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Homeless guy spits some truth.

A filmmaker from Texas is helping to get a homeless man off the streets after being deeply moved by his poignant story.

Tyler Mann says he met a guitar-toting homeless man, identified only as Obediah, outside an Austin gas station. The pair got into a conversation, which Mann filmed.

(Watch the video of the encounter above. Warning: The clip contains some strong language.)

In the video, Obediah shares the story of his journey from a comfortable existence to a life on the streets. He explains how he was convicted of felony drug possession and after serving time, found it impossible to get a job or a place to live.

“They’ll give a pedophile an apartment before they will me because I had a drug charge,” Obediah said. “The hard part of becoming part of society again was they didn’t want me … so I just decided fuck it, I’m going to sleep in a tent, and I’m going do what I love for a living, which is playing music.”

Obediah described the challenges and discrimination he’s faced as a homeless person, including the time a woman yelled at him to get away from her when he only wanted to ask for the time.

“There are a lot of good people out there but for the most part, most people all they care about is themselves,” he said, adding: “[What makes people] so terrified of relationships and people that they just don’t want nothing to do with nobody? It’s sad.”

Obediah lamented to Mann that the world has become a place where people are seemingly glued to Facebook and the Internet, but have no time for real conversation and connection. However, he insisted that he still wants to bring a bit of brightness to the people around him, despite his hardship.

“I’m just trying to make the world a … more beautiful place,” Obediah said. “If music and art can do it, and someone appreciates it, that’s all that matters.”

Since Mann uploaded the video of his exchange with Obediah on YouTube Monday, the clip has been watched more than 770,000 times on the video sharing site and more than 8 million times on Facebook.

Mann says the meeting had a profound impact on him; he’s even been inspired to start a campaign to get Obediah off the streets.

On Tuesday, Mann launched a GoFundMe campaign in Obediah’s name. The goal is to raise $5,000 to get him started on a new life, and to show him “that people care.”

“Obediah changed my life overnight,” Mann wrote on the campaign page. “So now I want to change his … C’mon Internet. Let’s do this. We can get him off the streets.”

So far, more than $3,300 has been raised for Obediah. Mann told The Huffington Post over e-mail Thursday that several netizens have also offered to give Obediah a job. Some have also offered Obediah recording deals, he said.

“There are literally offers coming in from all over the world,” Mann said. “People genuinely [want] to help him.”

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Delmarva’s Heart and Soul: Local Man Helping the Homeless One Step at a Time

Local advocates say families make up the fastest growing portion of the population of homeless on the Eastern Shore, but a local man is doing something about it.

Robert Messick plans to take one step at a time to help those in need.

“What we’re going to be doing is through hiking the Appalachian Trail,” said Messick.

Messick will walk from one end of the Appalachain Trail to the other. That’s 2,190 miles or 5 million steps — each for a good cause.

“Meant to raise funds, but also awareness for those who struggle with homelessness,” said Messick.

Messick hopes to support those who Talbot Interfaith Shelter in Easton help on a daily basis. They’re an interfaith-based service organization dedicated to helping those who need shelter. Messick hopes to raise $35,000 for them.

Julie Lowe is the Executive Director of the Talbot Interfaith Shelter.

“Just the commitment that is five or six months out on the trail and up and down mountains — blisters and weather,” said Lowe. “It’s unfathomable to me.”

Messick will leave April 15th. He’ll hike an average of 15 miles a day.

He’s packing the basics, and perhaps a few extras.

“I have chocolate covered coffee beans to get me some caffeine,” said Messick. “Just to get going.”

He’ll burn 4,000 calories a day so energy is key. The shelter will coordinate food drops for him.

“It’s not uncommon to lose 30 lbs on the trek,” Messick said. “Fortunately, I’ve prepared myself. I’ve got some excess weight.”

Still, he knows it won’t be easy.

“You’ve got rain for day after day,” said Messick. “It’s not much fun, you just have to stick with it.”

Messick invites everyone to follow his journey virtually. He’s going to post updates on social media throughout his entire trip.

Messick said you can even join him on the trail. He simply asks that those who would like to hike with him get a sponsor to help raise money for the shelter.

 

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Woman dedicates 30 years to helping people with disabilities find jobs

 

“She stood by me, she never let, she wouldn’t let me go,” says 31-year-old Megan Northup, of Marlborough.

She’s talking about her mentor and boss, Kathy Petkauskos. Together they’ve been through a lot.

Northup explains “With Asperger’s syndrome and mental health issues, she’s never given up on me.”

The two are a part of the Work Without Limits initiative of UMass Medical School, where they’re dedicated to connecting employers and people with disabilities.

Northup first joined as an intern about four years ago. At the time, she had limited success in the workplace.

“I didn’t have very good hopes of enjoying a job,” Northup says. “I worked at McDonald’s and that didn’t go very well.”

But Petkauskos saw something special in Northup. A timid temperament at first, but Northup excelled doing data entry and research.

“I call her an illumination of her former self because she really has blossomed,” says Petkauskos .”She’s just a pleasure to have as part of the team, but also produces high quality work.”

Starting with that first internship, Northup went on to be hired part time, then full time, then last year she was promoted. She decided it was time to give Petkauskos something in return.

That gift was a nomination to the Susan M. Daniels Disability Mentoring Hall of Fame.

“When I saw it, I thought it must have been a mistake quite honestly,” says Petkauskos. “I could not imagine, you know, a more meaningful way for it to come about than for it to come from Megan, we’ve had a very special relationship and its been a great journey and a learning experience for both of us.”

Her induction into the hall of fame is just one of many motivations for Petkauskos, who says there’s a long way to go to improve the employment landscape for people with disabilities, she hopes Massachusetts will ultimately lead the country when it comes to inclusion.

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