Homeless Man Learns Coding, Launches App

leo grand trees for cars app

You’ve heard of startup entrepreneurs beginning with nothing. But few have probably started with less than Leo Grand.

After losing his job with MetLife, Grand also lost his home when rent on his apartment skyrocketed leaving him on the streets.

So it may be hard to believe that after nearly two years of living in shelters, he has not only learned a new skill that should make him more employable — Grand is also now an entrepreneur.  He has launched his own app, Trees for Cars, to promote carpooling as a way to help the environment.  The app is designed to connect drivers and riders.

The app is available on Google Play and the Apple app store for 99 cents and here’s a video pitch from Grand urging prospective users to download it:

Of course, Grand did not do all of this alone. Earlier this year, good samaritan and software engineer Patrick McConlogue offered the homeless man an important choice.

McConlogue would give Grand $100 to meet his immediate needs or, instead, he would buy Grand a laptop and teach him to write code.

Grand told NBC News he hopes his choice will change people’s minds about the homeless:

All homeless people are mentally ill, lazy, unintelligent — that’s the stigma. It doesn’t really matter your living arrangements as long as you’ve got the mindset to do it and the will.

Getting to this point hasn’t been easy. Grand spent an hour a day being tutored by McConlogue and then many hours working on his own

There were setbacks along the way, of course. In October, Grand was arrested by New York City police for sleeping on a park bench, Gothamist.com reports. And his precious laptop was confiscated. But with perseverance and the help of friends, he kept going.

Today he hopes for more than just the success of his app. He is also looking for a job and a place to live.

Meanwhile, his experiences so far have inspired another startup. McConlogue hopes soon to launch a complete Journeyman Course teaching others how to code for free.

Image: Journeyman Facebook


Joshua Sophy Joshua Sophy is the Editor for Small Business Trends and the Head of Content Partnerships. A journalist with 20 years of experience in traditional and online media, he is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists. He founded his own local newspaper, the Pottsville Free Press, covering his hometown.

12 Reactions
  1. Now we just need more schools in the public education system to teach coding. And not just colleges. I feel like high school students could handle it.

    • Robert, I agree. A lot of schools no longer teach skills like wood shop or cooking or sewing (or they’ve morphed into something not nearly as useful). I learned valuable skills from those classes, and I am really glad I took them. Those skills have stayed with me my entire life.

      Why not teach the 21st century version of hands-on skills, like coding? Much more practical than many topics…

      – Anita

    • We had computing and writing simple code in highschool. They had purchased a special school computer that could handle soft drinks spilling on the keyboard! 😉 Go To –> Print! 😉

  2. What an amazing story. Anyone can learn. It is only a matter of having the want to learn. Grand made the right choice when he chooses coding over money. I hope this story inspires more people especially those who are going through a tough time in their lives.

  3. Great story of dreams and dedication. If Leo had opted for the $100 for his immediate needs, I wouldn’t have blamed him or judged him.

    I wish him all the best. Hope he finds a place and a job. I have a feeling he will soon.

    Much light to McConlogue for helping him out.

    • Yes. I will also not blame him if he chose the latter. But I guess he has chosen the better choice by opting to be taught. Now, he has broken free of his circumstances. Truly an inspiring story.

      • He broke free the minute he made that choice to learn a new skill. Everything else that happened after that confirms it. He’s indeed an inspiration. I hope he one day goes around doing talks.

  4. This is a inspriring sunshine story! What is the meaning of the word journeyman?

  5. Great Story! Hope he achieves more success. Just goes on to show that strong will power and mindset can do wonders.

  6. Grand, what you did, one day will make you grand. Be glad that what happened has made you graduate from being comfortable with what you had, to another new level of thinking. Remember many changes for better come with some pains or uncomfortable attachment! I am really proud of you!
    I would like to know how you are progressing.