If you were to approach 10 homeless people and gave them the option of $100 cash or an opportunity to teach them programming, how many do you think would choose the programming option? Back in August Patrick McConlogue, a software developer in New York approached a homeless man with this ultimatum. Meet Leo the “Journeyman”, the 28 year old homeless man who is learning to code.
I’ve been following this story ever since I saw Patrick’s original blog post on Medium. Originally he received a huge amount of criticism, with many seeing it as a PR stunt. As this has unfolded over the past 2 months, you can see that Leo is going after this 100% and gaining some legit skills. Leo has has a passion for environmental awareness, so it’s only fitting that he is currently working on building an application for that. Patrick gives Leo a one hour lesson every morning on his way to work. A typical lesson between the two consists of reviewing the previous lesson, learning something new and putting it to use, followed by evaluating the application at the end to see where it needs to be heading.
Leo has been doing an incredible job and is a huge inspiration for so many people who have been following his journey. Yesterday though, Leo was arrested for trespassing outside of a building while trying to find a place to charge his laptop. There was a big mess between the NYPD and Patrick, trying to prove that Leo was not up to any harm. Thanks to all of the amazing support of Leo’s following who were calling in to police stations and Mayor Bloomberg’s office, Leo was set free without any charges.
Leo has assured everyone that he is just a normal guy who is homeless. Not a criminal, not a drug addict or alcoholic. He is just a man who is trying to better his life and get people to look beyond the homeless stereotype. “It’s really hard to convince people that you are not a bad person, or a drug addict or a crazy. How are you gonna do that when you are homeless, and that’s how the homeless are depicted? It’s not always a negative thing but people don’t know that. My life had good moments before this whole thing,” Leo said. “And all I think is now maybe learning how to do something new will give me more opportunities to have more good moments.”
If you ever doubt your ability to learn something because you may not be smart enough or circumstances are holding you back, look to Leo for inspiration. He is the best kind of nerd, one who is not letting his circumstances dictate who he is or what he can learn.
You can follow Leo’s progress here as well as take all of the coding lessons that he is learning for free.