Homeless New Yorker Leo Grand was living rough and surviving on the streets of the Big Apple. Opportunity came knocking when Noodle developer Patrick McConlogue approached him with a peculiar offer: $100 cash on the spot or two months of daily 1-hour lessons of coding. Grand went for the latter. Three months of hard work saw both good and bad highlights – the police confiscated one of Grand’s laptops, a deskspace was lent to him by Noodle’s founder, and 5 weeks of a Noodle employee’s spare time was taken up – resulting in an app, “Trees for Cars”.
When news got out of McConlogue’s offer to Grand, the reception wasn’t a friendly one from Internet users. Some called him arrogant and criticized him for transforming a homeless man into a “startup experiment”.
Originally, an employee at MetLife, Grand was laid off in 2011 and was eventually thrown out of his apartment. Despite his predicament, Grand’s work ethic and desire to learn proved awe-inspiring to McConlogue, who continues to keep his protege’s best interests at heart. When Grand was arrested in October for sleeping on a park bench, McConlogue rallied with his social network to have the coder released from police custody in time to appear on the Today Show.
“Trees for Cars”, a mobile carpooling app connecting drivers and riders, is available on iOS and Android. For every download, Grand gets 70 cents. In the long run, he hopes to land more job opportunities, buy a house and go to school. Google is also on his radar, where he intends to apply first.
In an America where 1 in 5 adults experiences joblessness, simple acts of kindness from men like McConlogue can go a long way in helping to make a real difference in the lives of the downtrodden. In August, he wrote an article titled “Finding the unjustly homeless and teaching them to code”, which is viewable on blogging platform Medium.