Software engineer teaches homeless man how to code

Jim Dolan reports they have developed a top 5 app.
December 12, 2013 7:22:07 AM PST
There's a remarkable story about what can happen from a random act of kindness. A stranger gave a homeless man a laptop and lessons on how to write computer code.

"I am an unusual person," said Leo Grand, a homeless individual.

No one would argue that. Leo Grand has been homeless for more than five years, living on the streets, mostly around Chelsea Piers through brutal winters and scorching summers. That is how he met Patrick.

"I walked by him for several months," said Patrick McConlogue, a software engineer.

Patrick is college educated, a software engineer, and he saw Leo on the piers as he came to work at an education search engine called Noodle.

One day, Patrick decided he wanted to help, so he made Leo an offer, a choice.

"I would either ask him if he wanted a hundred dollars to do with whatever he wanted or learn to code," McConlogue said.

Coding is what Patrick does, he writes code for computer programs. Leo didn't know what coding was, and he sure knew he could use a hundred bucks.

"Learning something new for me being a scientist was I would say, another mental notch under my belt that I didn't mind having," Grand said.

"I would come in an hour early every morning for two months and we would work on coding," McConlogue said.

"Can you learn to code in two months?" Eyewitness News asked.

"You can fall in love with coding in two months," McConlogue said.

Leo did. He was good at it.

"Every time I figured something out, there was always a new puzzle. So it's that constant mental challenge of getting over hurdle after hurdle after hurdle," Grand said.

He got so good at it, that Leo, a devout environmentalist, wrote every line of code for an app he invented called trees for cars, which matches people from the same geographical area for car pools.

"It is number five right now in the app store," McConlogue said.

"Out of thousands of apps?" Eyewitness News asked.

"It's incredible, it shouldn't be possible," McConlogue said.

Leo is still homeless. But he is, now, thanks in large part to Patrick, hopeful.

"And I plan to make some money from it and have a nice penthouse," Grand said.

But he'd settle for a job.