HERE’S a fairy-tale story in the run-up to Christmas. Leo Grand was living on the streets without a prospect coming his way. Then, one day he was given the offer to code and now he has just released his own app.
It sounds like the premise of a Hollywood yarn but as reported by Business Insider this really happened.
Most coders have the luxury of a comfy office chair, a warm office and coffee machine in the kitchen. Not Leo Grand. He charges his laptop courtesy of a nearby apartment building, then heads out to the street where he has been living since 2011 to learn code from used books from Amazon and the help of a programmer who decided to give him this chance.
Grand lost his job at insurance company MetLife in Manhattan and was priced out of his apartment with nowhere other than the streets to go.
Patrick McConlogue is the man who saw potential in Leo and one day decided to give him a shot by offering him the option of $100 or books, a laptop and lessons everyday on how to code. Leo chose the latter.
“I can go through $100 in a few days,” Leo said. “But he told me I could have a laptop and learn how to do something and I figured it could turn into something more.”
So, every day at 8am McConlogue and Grand would sit down for an hour and code. When McConlogue headed off to work, Leo continued to spend 3-4 hours on his own practising writing code and swotting up on the books provided.
“It’s not like I don’t have the time to learn to do it,” Leo says.
Leo had a knack for it and before long the two men had worked together to start building an app. Four months later Leo’s very own app has been launched in Apple and Android app stores.
Trees for Cars is a carpool app that hopes to save the environment by helping New York commuters share rides. For those driving, a meeting place is selected on the app and a list of nearby riders is suggested. The users are then connected if they choose to. The app will then track how much CO2 was saved by the passengers, which encourages a competitive saving element.
“Trees for Cars is a great way to build relationships, strengthen communities, help each-other financially and energy wise, all under the umbrella of saving the environment,” Grand said in an official statement about the app.
For those who scoffed at the project this is proof of human perception, potential and perseverance. As Leo says: “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.”
The app is available for iPhone, iPad and Android being sold at US$0.99 with the profits going towards Leo’s development of further projects.