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My Story as a Homeless Developer (medium.com)
482 points by jessehorne 9 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 300 comments

Hey Jesse,

I'm also formerly homeless, and now the cofounder of https://LambdaSchool.com (YC S17). We have a nonprofit fund designed specifically to help out homeless software engineers looking for a job.

I'd love to put you in a cheap airbnb or apartment, hook you up with Lambda School's career services team who will help review your resume, get your github and portfolio in shape, practice interviewing, and help you land a job. We've already seen multiple success stories (for example David https://www.kron4.com/news/bay-area/homeless-man-handing-out..., who is now making almost $100k/yr).

Generous donors have allowed us to continue to grow the fund after Lambda School's original $50,000 contribution.

I know how hard it is to focus on getting a job when you're just trying to survive, so let's try to eliminate that distraction. Hit me up at austen@lambdaschool.com and let's help you focus and get to where you need to be.

PS if anyone on HN wants to donate to the fund it's here - https://www.gofundme.com/lambda-perpetual-access-fund. Generally we can help someone who knows how to write code go from homeless to hired with a couple thousand dollars all-in.

I am so happy to read this. I will reach out momentarily.

Awesome! Fair warning, I'm heading out for the night, so if I don't get back to you immediately that's why. Will get back late tonight.

Sorry about the thread highjacking! But do you work internationally, like all the way in the middle east? I'm one of the local dev community leaders in my country, and there is just so much space for proper training and education, also a huge supply of fresh out of CS school youngsters who have no idea what to do in a troubled country with an education system that's stuck in the 90s.

So I would like to ask you a few questions if you allow me to shoot you an email? :)

who have no idea what to do in a troubled country with an education system that's stuck in the 90s.


Years ago, I read a book about the program. It's designed to educate people in terrible circumstances. I am thinking you might find it a useful resource. Among other things, they designed a schedule that helped minimize the damage from missed sessions, iirc.



My email is in profile. Please email and I'll try to link you up with friends in MENA and in the US and look for opportunities where you can cooperate.

Sure, check your inbox :)

We’re mostly in the US for now, need to figure out regulation and income verification + markets overseas. Soon.

Oh, that's unfortunate, Thank you :)

I listened to the A16Z podcast recently on the refugee crises in Syria[1] where they talk about a generation of people that will have missed out on secondary education due to the war there. I'd be curious to know what positive actions you've seen taken (or heard of) that can help address the issue?


I'm not Syrian, I'm Iraqi, and I can assure you the issue is bigger than that around here (most middle east)

The only positive(ish) thing I know of is a Bootcamp they do in northern Iraq for Iraqi(ISIS crisis) and Syrian refugees that teach them how to code, but it's most basic stuff that bearly qualify you for an interview but no more.

The problem with these international organization is that they sponsor local educational entities to do the teaching and training... and 99% of them are not even qualified to work in the industry (tech as an example), I know a young girl certified by the "IEEE young professionals", with local & international charities sponsorships, who teaches girls how to code, and her classroom slides are full of errors... in HTML... structure and spelling mistakes all over the place :'(

Learning a new language (english) is difficult enough, but to learn to program a computer at the same time seems a lot to ask of children.

If software engineering is a sensible way out, would something like Qalb be a better starting point for learning core fundamentals?

The reason for asking the question comes from a "what can I do to help standpoint". Throwing money over the fence is often the only answer I receive to that question but from my own naive perspective it seems that billions in aid haven't made much of a (self-sustaining) dent. However if a language like Qalb were actively used I could imagine contributing to its development - perhaps making it more elm-like so it compiles into javascript?

English is not the problem, this is a huge misconception at least in Iraq, the girl I mention? shes a CS college student who already studied C++, C# and whatever they teach... in English, her students? the are CS graduates or even already employed women with interest in tech. they know English they already watch tutorials on Udemy and youtube etc... in English

Qalb and Noor languages etc.. are only good to help kickstart the logical thinking for poor kids with next to 0 education.

In Iraq, for example, the TOEFL, IELTS, CISCO, and Microtek entry-level certificates are the most common "resume fillers" all English

Thats not ideal, off course, but surely better than no education?

The traditional education is the problem, most of the students in the activities I mentioned above are university students or already graduated. the majority are not uneducated refugees as you think.

What’s the level of English proficiency?

The level varies but in general, the young Iraqis are Hollywood addicts xD, so I would say it's decent, some are really good and some need a little bit practice.

All mentors/leaders are easily on the high side

Cool! But... I've taken a look at the curriculum and the question popped up immediately: what if a person already knows a fair portion of the subjects like basic HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Python, C/C++/C# and Java and has even developed some simple websites using pure vanilla HTML+CCS+JS+PHP in their past (and has experience in building and fixing PCs) and just has no skills in computer science and in how the things are cooked together in modern-day production coding? You say you teach from absolute zero, is it possible to skip "this is a HTML tag", "this is a variable" and "print 10 even numbers in the console in a for loop" parts?

Yes. That stuff all happens in our pre-course work, which you can test out of.

Hi Jesse,

Tagging here onto Austen’s thread (for reasons you’ll see below). My startup’s public benefit corporation mission (separate from our product mission) is to hire people in positions such as yours. Gentrification (→ high rents where jobs are located) as well as an unequal economic system (wealth inequality, selective inheritances, etc.) have made your position a challenging one.

About to sign an Apprenticeship Agreement with a woman to whom I’ll be providing free room & board, along with a living stipend, so that she can participate in Austen’s Lambda School full-time Web Dev track. After graduation, she’ll have a chance to participate for another half year as an apprentice, at the end of which I’ll offer her (pending qualification) a position with substantial equity as a Junior Software Engineer (50% of the company is reserved for contributors).

Might you be interested in being added as a fully paid apprentice (remote) after you graduate? It would also entail a highly likely position as a Junior Software Engineer (also remote) with equity on successful completion of the apprenticeship.




They ended up helping me get a vehicle which will help me get a job here. I have a few projects which are bringing in funds in the meantime. I'd love to talk about a paid apprenticeship if you're still interested.

Thanks, Jesse

His github portfolio is in perfect shape already. He is an expert Lua coder who created his own language interpreter.

Indeed, but that’s not obvious unless you dig through his projects. It’s easy to make that clear.

Could I recommend someone? I made a comment below about Mani, whom I met when I was volunteering at our local library.

Just saw the comment. Can you send me more details about him, and we can figure out the best way to help him? austen@lambdaschool.com.

Seems like he has housing, but I'll do anything I can to help someone who has enough hustle to be at a library all the time.

Easiest might be that we provide a computer, internet, and can give him self-paced access to our course archives (normally reserved for student review).

Is this open to Canadians? A friend is considering a coding boot camp and it seems like a lot of money upfront.

Also how do the success rates compare?

https://lambdaschool.com/outcomes are our outcomes - not bad at all for a free-upfront school. We see about one student hired per day at this point.

To be clear, we can do better. Our company-wide goal is 90% hired within 90 days. More work to do.

We're still working on Canada; have him/her email me austen@lambdaschool.com

Thanks. This model seems much less predatory as you have a stake in their success.

The school they are considering has a 97% success rate which seems too good to be true.

...what school is that? Sounds like classic code bootcamp accounting where they do something funny with the denominator

I don't think this is the place but they boast 96% employment of which 97% are in tech.

They must be fudging something.


Thankfully, that page also links to their 'transparency report', which provides some of the raw numbers.

The 96% you state is 237/247. Numerator is grads who accepted employment within 120 days. Denominator is grads who were unemployed and working with the bootcamp's career programme.

But only 76 of those 237 were regular full-time positions. Another 78 were apprenticeships which led to full time employment.

The total number of grads was 388 (i.e. much higher than the 247 denominator).

The least generous ratio you can come up with from the supplied figures is 76 (# full-time jobs) * 97% (% technical) / 388 (# grads), which gives 19%.

Gotta love bootcamp accounting.

Personally I’d count apprenticeships; getting your foot in the door is generally the hardest part. That gives a meh 64.9%.

Not far off most bootcamps to be honest, but a far cry from 97%.

If you count the apprenticeships that resulted in a full time job at the same place (i.e. where it got the person a foot in the door), then the numerator is 76+78=154

That's 40% of 388 total grads.

Ok I take it back that’s still really bad

Thanks! I didn't notice that they would send you a report.

It's nice that they provide it. I understand why they use such misleading statistics, it just hard to trust people that do.

What was David's education and career before entering Lambda School? What languages or frameworks does he use now for his job? Are any of the graduates working remotely or do most SW jobs require going to a daily office?

David wasn’t a Lambda School student, he was just an engineer that ran out of cash looking for a job.

Some of our grads work remotely but those roles are difficult to find and I wouldn’t necessarily recommend them as a fresh new engineer.

Hi austenallred , this is music to my ears. Have you ever thought of starting branches outside US(India in particular)? Here Udacity is trying to do the same but they are damn costly as per Indian standards.

Actively working on it

What about changing your model to take a cut of the jobs people end up with? Then you'd end up being self sustainable. Recruiters take about a 20%, so with your one guy getting 100k you could help 10 more.

That's generally Lambda School's model - we train people to be software engineers for no upfront tuition in exchange for a share of future income for two years. We also have experiments running with housing and living stipends in exchange for a share of future income for three years.

However, I consider recommending that to someone who is homeless and/or destitute exploitative. I can't put my finger on why, but knowing how desperate you can feel in that scenario I don't feel OK turning that into a money-making (or even transactional) scenario.

We've found that the folks who are hired and now-housed tend to donate enough to keep the fund alive once they're on their feet, but I don't feel right requiring it.

> We've found that the folks who are hired and now-housed tend to donate enough to keep the fund alive once they're on their feet, but I don't feel right requiring it.

That is awesome on both sides :).

Have you explored a social impact bond funding model for such people?

No, I’m sure there are 100 clever ways to fund this I haven’t considered, but I haven’t had the time to explore it.

Hi Austen, your GoFundMe link is pointing to the wrong page. It should be https://www.gofundme.com/lambda-perpetual-access-fund

Thank you!

As the author discovered, reliable transportation and a permanent residence are often prerequisites for many office jobs. However, I do know that in Iowa there are many other kinds of jobs, lots of which would pay a wage sufficient to get back on one's feet, and have more lenient requirements. Perhaps the author needs to get any job vs. a programming job? Establishing a place to live, getting consistent income, and then going after the programming job would be a better idea perhaps? Sucks to take a step back, but sometimes that's the only way to go forward.

I have a family member going through this same thing and struggling with similar issues. The author is right, it won't be easy to rise above the situation they find themselves in, but the key thing is to stop making bad decisions and take small but incremental steps to improve. Big bang "remote programming job" might not be in the cards. But farm laborer could be. Which may be a step in that direction.

What do you mean by many jobs. Outside of standing outside of home depot I don't know many jobs that don't require a permanent address and a phone number and an email. Entry level employment is like 99% massive corporations that make no allowances for the realities of hard lives.

You sound pretty out of touch. In Iowa there is an enormous agriculture industry - an industry not known for asking a lot of personal questions about origin or current status. If you can show up and do the work (and maybe pass a drug test), you're hired. And often paid cash.

Outside of agriculture, there are the usual suspects. Bars, restaurants, cleaning jobs, roofing, painting, other forms of low skill construction, landscaping/yard work, and with the unemployment rate so low, other jobs are becoming available as well. Many of these jobs have someone who drives, and a passenger or two to help with the work when they arrive. I know several folks who do not have licenses due to DUIs, and they are gainfully employed without owning a car, in places where cars are almost a necessity.

I never said it would be easy - but it certainly is doable.

Indeed. I'm sitting here at a cafe in my small Kansas town. There's a landscape company across the street with a sign offering $12/hr. They are desperate for people. I know this because I've hired their competitor to mow my grass and they can't get it mowed often enough because they are understaffed. This is a small town, probably about the same size as OP's. You can walk or ride a bike anywhere, so transportation is no problem.

I suspect that there's more to OPs story than what was told. Substance abuse, etc. Not faulting the guy but I think that he needs to make an honest assessment of his situation. It's not the lack of work, I know that.

Good luck, OP. My parents were both drug addicts and I moved from house to house for most of my life, too. I know how hard it can be. But, I clawed my way out and I know you can, too.

try being homeless and getting that landscaping job.

Getting out of homelessness is extremely difficult. You smell, you can't keep your stuff safe, you can't keep your devices powered on, you can't get constant internet, you may not be able to find a place to sit and work in peace, etc.

It's a catch 22: without a job, no apartment. without an apartment, no job. you need a phone, an apartment/living space, internet, and electricity in order to work as a programmer.

He sounds smart enough. He can articulate well and can use a PC.

If he is any reliable and ask for help locally, he will get it.

There is more to it than his text.

There are homeless people out there with alcohol addiction or other hard drugs. Schizophrenia untreated etc.

How homeless and helpless is your situation when you still can write a blog post?

Don't get me wrong, people should get/need help but people are not "just" homeless and something is missing in his story.

These guys don't care what you look like or smell like. They only care whether you will do the work and show up sober. Given than OP doesn't want to do manual labor and his sobriety is unclear (he mentions "more bad decisions"), I'm not so sure.

Like others have mentioned, this is a stepping stone job. I mentioned in my post that I, too, had a rough time as a kid and young guy. I failed out of Vanderbilt after my first year and had to take a job assembling trophies to get back on my feet. Believe me, it doesn't feel good to go from playing frisbee on Alumni Lawn to being back home in my crappy town, making $4.25/hr screwing nuts onto threaded rods for eight hours a day alongside people who never even went to high school. It was humbling but it paid the rent on my shitty apartment and paid for my dialup internet connection, which led to my first tech job at an ISP in 1994. It's been pretty amazing since then.

Landscape companies here require you to have car, so that you move faster and can take tools with you.

Also, economy in your city being good and job opening for lanscape available does not imply same economy in other cities.

Do many Landscape companies not supply work vehicles or pair you with employees who do have them?

Often not. I would not be even sure they could afford leet of company cars given how seasonal work is.

The pairing may happen on individual basis, basically when most of work is teamwork and they don't need you to go around alone anyway. A lot of work is single person work. Or when boss is nice and willing to help you out and organize more.

So I guess that depends on what exactly the company needs you to do. Plenty require car so that you are flexible whether there is acute need for it or not.

And don't forget prejudice against people without cars, it is out of norm and suspect for many people. (Same with being homeless, they may not give you job for fear of you being trouble).

I am really curios about downvotes, because that is how landscaping works here. It is a business not a charity and it is tough business with low margin. They don't give out cars.

I'm not down-voting here, but fair enough. I didn't realise landscaping was such a low-margin industry.

I think OP mentioned he only wanted developer jobs.

He did, but the grandparent post suggested OP tries to find another job first, use that money to get a place to live and a phone. Once he has that, he can find a programming job.

Sounds pretty smart to me, but I don't know anything about being homeless or getting a job in the USA.

The implication is that the majority of homeless are just lazy, yea? Just pick apples!

I've been exactly there. You're not making minimum wage when you show up to the farm to pick apricots all day.

Bars - need a bartender license. Yes, you do, nobody is risking it in 2018.

Restaurants, sure, but again, you're not making minimum wage, and if you whiff of hobo you're not working front of house and getting tips.

Cleaning jobs are usually cornered by some immigrant class . If you're an immigrant and have friends/family with the hookup or maybe can speak their language, congrats, you're in (not making minimum wage). If not, move on.

Roofing - you need to bring your own tools. Speaking from experience. Also, this isn't just a "show up and do it job," the shysters that manage to sell shit crews to homeowners never last long, so you'll have to get on with a crew that know what they're doing, and they're not going to want to bring someone on that wants to just do it long enough to "get their feet under them" and then bail. Decent pay, sure, but it's a "career."

Painting - this means standing outside of home depot, just like OP said. Not minimum wage.

Other forms of low skill construction - like what? It's not "low skill," the immigrants you see doing it get trained up by their cousins on the job, and once again, it's bring your own tools.

Landscaping/yard work - market cornered by immigrants and highschoolers. Nobody wants a random hobo mowing their lawn. Maybe you can get on with an immigrant crew. Non-minimum wage.

>unemployment rate so low

Yea, because people are being paid like it's still 1991 (the 2009 raise was putting a finger into a ten meter diameter hole in a dam).

This guy didn't have a family to support him. That's how the immigrants do it, in case anybody is wondering - they stay with families, get jobs due to families, and afford life here because they're all supporting eachother. Random hobo programmer dude is going to have a MUCH harder time scrabbling out of the hole.

Yea, you can scrabble a life, but you're not building a ladder out of the hole for yourself. I'd argue, if you can program, the 3.75/hr you'd make for 3 months is meaningless if you can instead spend that 3 months homeless but then pull a programming job for even a month.

There is no implication as the post said nothing about the homeless.

> That's how the immigrants do it

Not really. Lots of generalizations there about immigrants. Some might have networks but many come here on their own with nothing and grind it out for decades to build up their lives. The key is persistence.

Your post seems to be full of assumptions and complaints which makes it clear that you likely have never attempted to get such a job, because it's definitely not as impossible as you make it sound. Also, when you're homeless, anything is better than nothing.

Speaking as someone who knows people who immigrated, the cooperation and help thing were huge factor - especially so among those who did low skill work. People moved in groups or seeked places where they knew somebody. It is hard life and they are not doing it completely alone without cooperation because that would make it even harder. (Offtopic: refusal to accept that people do help each other, give each other advice and that it is factor in life is distinctively American thing. Many cultures see mutual help like that as requirement or "normal". Not everyone see insult in word help, many see it as just what intelligent people do.)

Especially the parts about someone teaching you trade and borrowing tools so you can show up like pretending to be pro instead of like someone who never done that trade. Or relative helping you get job and teaching you on the job. Smart person can learn basics fast, but can't figure them on his own and need someone to cover up basic mistakes at the beginning.

And also ability to find a place to sleep in shared with other non complete strangers (e.g. People you know something about even if a bit) - not as comfortable nor with privacy but cheap and provides connections.

The shared housing was common enough that Americans attempted to prevent it in places (via rules on multiple families in one house etc).

Speaking as someone who is an immigrant, there are just as many families who are on their own.

Culture aspect is real but it's highly localized, even to immigrants, meaning you don't get help from "your people" just because you share the same origin.

I'm curious, where are you from and what do you do?

I don’t think the intent was to say that it’s easy to get a job or that people without work are lazy - just that an address is not a strict requirement.

Nonsense. I was homeless exactly once for a few weeks in San Francisco.

It took a loan from my sister (hey, lucky I had a sister with money to loan me!) to get one of those rooms in a shared building where you aren't allowed to have guests and the kitchen cupboards have padlocks on them.

You NEED an address to get anything more than one-off day work that you can't count on to pay the next months rent with. It's not optional.

I did the one-off "go to a construction site, ask if they need help, get 20 bucks for cleaning the work site" thing and that's fine for EATING but that's about it. You can't send resumes out or get back to recruiters during that time, etc. It's enough to keep eating, that's about it.

At that time the rent was like $380 for the room (this was in the Multimedia Gulch days...) so that's like 11 bucks a day for rent, don't miss a day.

So, in one day of programming, I would make rent for the month and then some, but I needed to have a place with a computer to program.

So today, you have laptops, but you still need electricity and internet. You need a stable place where you can plug your stuff in, keep it safe, and work.

At least in CA there is literally no such thing as a 'bartending license'. The requirements for getting a job as a bartender in california start and stop at convincing a bar owner to let you tend their bar.

Even if there's no license, there no way someone can just walk into a bar and get a bartending job. I should know, I went to bartending school. Bartenders are almost always hired from lower level employees. Usually you start by cleaning tables, then you work your way up to a barback, and then you can move up as a bartender.

Hence my caveat about needing to convince a bar owner to let you be a bartender. Never said it was easy, just that there is no such thing as a bartenders license.

I was there for a bit and I got carded in almost every bar I went. They are very anal with it.

Yea, you'll get asked for ID to prove you're of drinking age.

That's totally different than some kind of state proctored or recognized bartending exam that a bartender must have passed in order to work at the bar.

Your post points to stronger minimum-wage enforcement being appropriate. It's ridiculous that there are so many legally grey (and legally OK) loopholes that employers use to get around minimum wage law, and that being economically disadvantaged means one is more likely to be exploited by these. What part of "minimum" is so difficult to understand and enforce?

Some types of farm work are paid by the amount of work performed, e.g. bushels of cherries. This method is permitted in federal labor law.

It might also be possible that being a 1099 contractor also avoids minimum wage laws by having a contract based on the job's completion, not the time taken.

> I've been exactly there. You're not making minimum wage when you show up to the farm to pick apricots all day.

While not Iowa, the farms around here will easily pay you $20-30/hr. if you are willing to work on equipment. Which, anyone who is capable of software development, also has the mindset required to work on equipment. They're pretty similar activities when you get down to it. I'm not sure there is any reason why someone with such a skillset needs to go into picking apricots. We're not exactly talking about a 12 year old who has never worked before and who's greatest ability is being able to turn on his video game console.

Speaking as a former mechanic--no, you can't just walk up to a piece of machinery and fix it. That is a career, and takes quite a lot of time to learn. The mindset is similar, sure, but would you expect an average mechanic to be able to develop software as well?

> no, you can't just walk up to a piece of machinery and fix it.

But as a farmer, I have to walk up and fix equipment all the time.

There are people who are better at it then me. I will definitely hire them when I am under a time crunch, but they also charge way more money than the figures I quoted earlier, so you cannot afford to take them on full-time (if they are willing to work on a farm full-time) and have them to perform other duties on the farm that do not have the same value proposition.

> would you expect an average mechanic to be able to develop software as well?

Yes, absolutely. I distinctly remember when I started developing software as a teenager and was able to start writing software after a day or two of honing my thought process, without the benefit of having a professional background like a mechanic has. It is a very accessible activity. I don't know if they could walk into a SV tech company offering $200k/year, just as a farmhand who works on machinery isn't likely to walk into higher paying heavy equipment mechanic position. There are going to be better developers out there, but like mechanical work, there is a gradient.

Note that this website is "hacker news". His efforts are correctly directed and he will likely eventually get the development work he should get. Someone will see the potential, risk a minor investment, and employ him.

Directing him to ag-work here is somewhat of a non-sequitur IMO

Painting pays little? Good painters and a lot of other "low skill" kuch pay 35-40€ / hour, if you deliver a good job.

I don't consider it a low skill though, it's being handy. Something I am not, so respect them. They build your home that you pay a loan for. While some of us get paid for apps that cost 1$ with a ad supported free version and that gives a 30% commission to the platform owners.

The majority of homeless aren't lazy. Instead, a whole lot of them have severe mental issues, causing them to be incapable of holding a job.

You also missed a large category of jobs, which is retail. And most people working retail are not immigrants. All you need to do is be reasonably presentable for these jobs.

I was homeless for a while and I can confirm, if you want a job, you will get one. Period. Employers are permanently desperate for good help.

I know felons with difficult histories that find work, if they can then anyone can.

It sounds like he has a phone number and an email. He could get a mailbox at a fedex as a permanent address.

This individual sounds more stubborn than your average person but also that he's had a tough life.

Hope the world works out for him.

Entry level employment is like 99% massive corporations

This seems unlikely, given that the majority of jobs in the US are provided by small businesses.

simile often involves hyperbole.

Turning “less than 50%” into “99%” is not hyperbole, it’s being incorrect.

It’s also not even simile, since the “like” here signals lazy approximation, not comparison.

Good point. It was an incorrect and lazy use of the word simile. It was an offhand remark that I thought felt right. I do stand by the use of 'hyperbole' though...

correction: exaggeration often involves hyperbole.

I was internet acquainted with a homeless guy who did this for a while. I asked him about it as research. Because of my medical situation, I'm really not suited to this kind of work. But even if I were, I would have absolutely no idea how to get started.

I was fascinated by the fact that he knew how to find these unadvertised jobs in a community he had never been to before. Even after him describing it to me, I don't think I would have any hope of figuring it out. I imagine a lot of people whose experience is limited to formal job applications would have no idea how to start. Many would have no idea this is even a thing.

I wish I knew the right thing to say or questions to ask or whatever to use this as some opportunity to gather resources for another angle of approach to write about. I don't. This is wholly alien to my experience.

I think that's probably part of the problem in this country. Casual work connections of this sort used to be more common. Now, it's like only immigrants know how to do this. Most Americans don't.

That's not laziness or whatever. More like a blind spot.

I agree it's a blind spot, but also a kind of arrogance and privilege. I know all about the unadvertised work world because I lived it for years. Many other Americans do too, but not the kind of people who frequent this forum. A gross generalization of course, but in my experience it is primarily naturalized white males, Hispanics of both genders (some immigrant some not), and African immigrants that are "fluent" in this part of our economy.

A lot of folks would rather throw up their hands and give up than do most the work I'm talking about - which is too bad because I've seen a lot of success stories start with "casual" jobs. And, in the age of "bullshit jobs" which everyone loves to talk about - a lot of blue collar low-skill work is actually not bullshit. It's necessary and important work that needs to be done, and a lot of it can hardly be automated.

I guess I would love to hear more nuts and bolts information on how this gets done. And that's not what I'm hearing.

I think you're overthinking it. It's mostly just asking around. Go to a blue collar bar and chat with some of the guys sitting there. In small towns the VFWs or Legions are good choices. Talk to the ones drinking by themselves and that look dirty or sweaty. Hang out at gas stations or a McDonalds. All the people that work these kinds of jobs need to use restrooms and eat. These are two very popular places for them to do those things.

Walk through an industrial park and ask the receptionist at each one if they're looking for help. I got several warehouse jobs this way.

Call lawn and landscaping services. A lot of these are small single owner operations. Most of these guys are too busy to look for people formally, but they can use the help. I have a buddy who runs a lawn service, he's paying $20/hr no questions asked for help. He's desperate to find people but he's not advertising on the internet because he's not tech savvy.

A little empathy goes a long way.

Thank you.

> have more lenient requirements

I guess those jobs have stricter requirements.

If I turn up an hour late for my white-collar office job, nobody cares (not that I do that.)

If someone turns up an hour late for their blue-collar warehouse job, they get fired.

I disagree. 1) the author is a programmer. programming pays better than most jobs.

2) the vast majority of jobs will vet for the same "stability indicators" and may even be more of sticklers than the culturally lassez-faire tech industry, which introduced casual fridays to the world.

3) did I mention the superior remuneration for programming jobs versus stacking boxes at Amazon.com warehouses or UPS?

I doubt that the author is "above" other work, as he mentioned doing yard work in exchange for housing at one friends place. This is a tech web site where many tech fiends read "news" items, such as this.

the culturally lassez-faire tech industry, which introduced casual fridays to the world.

Casual fridays were invented by stuffy British stockbrokers who wanted to escape quickly to their country pursuits for the weekend without having to change first. It long predates the tech industry.

While I can certainly see that as an origin story, Wikipedia puts it as an offshoot of Aloha Friday - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casual_Friday / https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aloha_shirt#Aloha_Friday - in the 60s.

My favorite origin story is one that mixes some truth with fantasy and a religious pantheon of the Casual Gods - https://everything2.com/user/m_turner/writeups/Casual+Gods

Regarding those stability indicators...

> Me: “First thing, is I am looking for a remote position just long enough to allow me to save for a vehicle.”

Onboarding for many positions requires at least a month of time. If you're looking for just long enough to save up for a used car, that means that as soon as the on boarding is done, that person is going to leave.

I'm certain that there are places that are just after long enough to save for a car, but that tends to be at the very low end of the skill set and competing with college students after beer money.

Looks like this was written today. He's apparently still homeless and he closes with a request for feedback.

So I'm just going to leave these links here (disclosure: they are my sites):


https://streetlifesolutions.blogspot.com/ (Same look, but different site)


This is listed on the Links page of PocketPuter.com, but I'm going to put it here on HN for maximum exposure (not mine, just an awesome resource):

List of Remote Jobs and Gigs Platforms



It seems like the biggest issue is not that he doesn’t have the skill set to find a job but his (admitted) mental illness. He needs someone to help him through that first. No, I don’t have any answers, but I do know how hard it is to do well at a job if your mind isn’t clear.

Being homeless is so detrimental to mental health that it's impossible to address it without addressing the material conditions that have led to mental illness being unmanageable. In other words, this is the same catch 22 that has countless homeless folks trapped in a cycle of despair.

It doesn't need to be a catch 22. Housing first. Which is, perhaps ironically what the LambdaSchool program in the top-voted comment does. Which is great. There is no reason government funds on addressing homelessness for people who aren't developers can't do the same.


I spent nearly 6 years on the street. Practical solutions for helping me solve my actual problems was the best thing for my head space. I wrote some of it down. Most of that can be found in the above blogs of mine.

I'm not at all unfamiliar with mental health issues. This is what I deeply and sincerely believe works.

If you disagree, perhaps you could hook him up with a better solution instead of raining on my parade.

Thank you for providing the resources you did. I am grateful that your homelessness is behind you.

You can disagree without offering a solution. His comment was with the aim of addressing the underlying problem. OP could get a dev job tomorrow and lose it within a week if mental health issues impede his ability to function on a team. Your parade isn't as important as OP's predicament.

These two claims conflict:

You can disagree without offering a solution.

Your parade isn't as important as OP's predicament.

You and the other commenter are offering nothing of help to the OP. Your entire focus is on taking me down for some reason.

Meanwhile, my opening comment offered actual resources to try to help the OP. If you think that addressing his problem is the most important thing here, then you could do the same thing I did and leave comments aimed at being helpful instead of comments aimed at shooting me down.

Hmmm, my reading of Scarface's comment was that it's more just trying to be constructive "He'll need to work out the mental health issues too..." kind of thing, rather than negging your comment.

But, maybe I just need more coffee. :)

I think this is a perfect illustration of what happens.

The (mentally ill) person does something which they intend as a benefit and people react. The (mentally ill) person feels attacked, often where no attack was intended.

This is the problem that needs to be addressed, as has been stated.

The reason (mentally ill) people don't have jobs is because they can't keep them, due to their illness, not that they can't find them.

I'm not trying to attack anyone in this thread by using the term mentally ill.

I suffer from something that has been variously diagnosed as aspergers/bipolar/borderline/crazy/mentally ill and I understand this pattern completely.

I was homeless for 3 months when I lost my job because of problems interacting with other employees. I seem to be too sensitive or maybe I'm imagining slights. Whatever the cause, the result is I have serious problems maintaining any relationships with anyone, even my family members.

I can be highly functioning for months at a time and I did have a 10 year relationship with someone, so I'm not beyond help and I'm not an awful person (though I feel like one despite my best efforts at positive affirmations!) but something seems to build inside me until it erupts in a stream of negativity that most people would rather not have to deal with, and so they don't.

My parents were both alcoholics, so I'm sure that is part of it, but being a slave 8 hours a day is very difficult for me, and always has been.

I'm 54 years old and on the verge of homelessness again after working IBM and Intel, among other industry giants.

There is no safety net in the US for unmarried males without dependents. It is assumed we are immune to struggles and should be able to lift ourselves up by our bootstraps.

I applaud the efforts of people like AustenAllred who are attempting to find market solutions to problems like homelessness. Bravo!

I can relate to this as I'm quite sensitive and when I was younger had an incredibly hot fuse, largely related to being socially awkward, getting teased in school, and not knowing how to deal with it. That carried on into the work environment and left me adversarial and feeling isolated.

For me the problematic dynamic came from having things upset me and build up until I would get so angry it would explode outward. I grew up learning to hold it in, so I had no idea I could talk about problems with people. It wasn't so much letting go of the anger as talking about feelings and difficulties with people allowed me to avoid hitting that breaking point and over time, the anger and resentment has faded. Additionally, those conversations led to a level of trust where I feel like I can reach out to the person when something comes up or even strongly supported by them.

Coming from alcoholic parents, you might want to check out Al Anon. I found that and Codependents Anonymous invaluable as places where I was surrounded by people struggling with many of the same social issues I did. Also, it was unique in that it's an environment where talking about these sort of things is encouraged and invited, in public I tend to find that people find these topics uncomfortable and unwelcome.

I don’t know you. To me you’re just a random person on HN. Why would I care about “taking you down” and how did a submission about someone else’s problem become a conversation about you?

I have no idea. If proving me wrong is not your agenda, why keep arguing this? If you really care so little what I do, why not walk away already? Or apologize for making the very first reply to my original comment and being so dismissive in your reply?

There are many possible responses here, but your pattern of response is very consistent with some need to prove me wrong, even if only to prove me wrong in my claim that you have an agenda to prove me wrong.

It's recursive.

And I think I shall stop replying at this point. I think I've made my point and I don't want to keep putting more into this unpleasantness.

Your advice shouldn’t be about “your parade”. It should be about him. He’s had plenty of jobs in development and he admitted that his issues are due to him not being able to handle for instance a dissolved relationship. There will always be strsssors and challenges in life, if he doesn’t have the tools to deal with them,he will stay in that cycle.

Give him credit for admitting he has a mental illness. There are too many people that won’t do that much.

No, it shouldn't be about my parade at all. So why are you making it about my comment? Why aren't you making comments aimed at actually referring him to useful resources instead, which is what my first comment here does?

You said I was raining on “your parade.” I admitted that I had no resources on mental illness. The best I could do was Google it. Getting him another job is just dealing with the symptoms. He had a job, a car,a place to stay etc. and lost it all because of the emotional issues he admitted that he had.

Why would things be any different this time without dealing with the underlying issues? I’m not judging him any more than I would judge someone with cancer. Mental illness is just as real and could benefit from treatment just like any other illness.

You were raining my parade. It's an expression. It doesn't mean I commented in order to make things about me, but you are crapping all over my advice instead of offering help yourself. This is in no way a useful comment, for anyone.

No, you aren't judging him. You are merely condemning him to a no win situation. This is done all too often to both mentally ill people and homeless people.

What would be different is that I have given him a list of remote platforms (plus other supporting information sources). If you are homeless but can access the internet, you can do work on the internet and no one cares when your last shower was.

Holding down a job while homeless is a tall order. Some people do it, but it's hard. Doing remote gig work online is very do-able. I did it for years while working on solving my personal problems.

I was frequently a loon while homeless. Doing remote gigs meant that I just didn't work when I was a loon, and I wasn't fired for taking time off. As long as I completed gigs in a timely fashion when I agreed to them, I got paid and I built my skills and reputation and increased my hourly pay and it helped me eventually get off the street.

I thank you for your list and I find it very helpful for my own personal job search at this moment. You are right to defend yourself against what you perceive as raining on your parade. But I would also caution you to pause before responding to apparent criticism and try to see the situation from their point of view. It is this "empathizing" that is so difficult for people on the autism spectrum, but we have to develop it in order to survive in this world.

I'm not on the autism spectrum.

Best of luck in finding solutions that work for you. :)

Thank you so much for this response. All of those blogs look super interesting and I'm looking through the spreadsheet now. I wanted to write similar material a while back. I still do. I likely will end up doing that and will get in touch when I do, if that's okay!

Yes, it's fine to get in touch.

Doreen, did you perform any manual labour jobs that helped you on your way off the street?

As a cleaner myself I'd suggest him building up a small round anywhere there's retired folks. He'd need a small ladder, a stepladder, squeegee and applicator, bucket, cloths. The problem isn't really the capital costs - just having attention to detail, observing for good working techniques, being patient, polite and once you're seen actively working in the neighbourhood people begin to start offering you all sorts of odd jobs.

I say this because I think some times people from middle class families identify so strongly as 'software person' it detracts from other possibilities when they're stuck for $$$.

I collected recyclables for a time. My son briefly tried panning for gold, but it didn't get results.

Hey Doreen!

Do you mind if I get in touch? I ran into a young homeless man (who has a felony on his record) in a big box parking lot in Central Florida the other day. He has an AC HVAC technician license, and is having a hard time finding someone who will hire him, and I'm looking for suggestions into how best to help him not just get back on his feet, but maximize his available skillset by getting back into an AC HVAC gig (instead of a minimum wage job). Is it just a matter of me cold calling every AC/HVAC company in a 30 mile radius and inquiring if they'd hire someone with his record?

I'm not actually super good at job hunting, so emailing me could be a total waste of time, but you are more than welcome to email me anyway. My email is in my profile.

Edit: There are job hunting resources for felons in specific, such as this:


Hi Doreen,

As someone who has careened on the edge of homelessness, due to mental illness, but thankfully not yet fallen into it straight out: thank you for your replies and posts in this thread :)

Kind regards, bzm3r

A good place to check is the county offices that serve the local district court. There will often be mental health and counseling services for probationers, and those places generally have a billboard full of current jobs that are felon-friendly. If your state has an unemployment office, they will probably have a website with jobs where you can post a resume. The best help you could give that young man would be an obamaphone, a library card, and some help making a resume.

> The calls usually go something like this.

> Me: “First thing, is I am looking for a remote position just long enough to allow me to save for a vehicle.”

> Recruiter: “Sure. spends 20 minutes gathering as much information about me as they can

> Recruiter: “We’d love to move forward with a position but you do not have a vehicle and the position requires you to have reliable transportation.”

Why would do you that? The recruiter and employer don't care if you unicycle, hitchhike, swim, or teleport to work. The conversation should be about your skills, experience, professional goals. The recruiter won't feel good about shopping you around if you make it sound like you're going to quit once you've saved a couple grand for a used car.

I suspect the author may want to sit down with someone and do a ton of practice interviews so they can be told here is 5 or 10 pieces of information that you should not volunteer to a recruiter. Here is another 5 or 10 ways to honestly answer/avoid some questions. That being said it seems like at some point the author may need to level about not having the best people skills but I am not sure how to say that without coming off as a big red flag. It seems like a very good sign that the author isn't blaming everyone else for their problems.

https://www.pramp.com/ - Practice coding interviews live for free

Parent comment was talking more about practicing the softer, more social questions rather than hard skills and problem solving questions.

That's what pramp does... it's a video interview so you practice talking as if you were in a real interview.

I was thinking that the author should just say "yes" and move on. Afterall, going to work an hour early using the bus IS reliable transportation.

You wouldn't want the the interview to feel like a sappy therapy session. You should steer it to the important questions.

Public transportation is _really_ bad in some places. Where I live, sometimes you can be two hours later than the schedule would suggest relying on public transit. I suppose you can then go to work 3 hours early to compensate. But it sure doesn't make it easier.

And I live in a reasonably sized city, it can be even worse in other places, like no bus route at all.

Our society is not set up for poor people, let alone homeless people. _everything_ is harder when you are poor, and an order of magnitude more so when you are homeless.

I think because the author is living in Iowa there may not be adequate public transportation? This struck me as odd too. Unless you’re a true rockstar (as in a public / semi-public figure with a great track record) no company is going to let you go remote for the first few weeks when the company doesn’t allow fully remote work. It seems like a really strange criterion to have and it’s probably THE major reason the author hasn’t been able to pass interviews, technical skills aside.

I can't wait until the MTA gets so bad that people tell me, "you take the subway? sorry, we're not interested."

But in some sense, having a reliable vehicle is a microcosm of a particular location and mindset. Nobody I know owns a car. We still mostly get to work on time, though.

He's in Iowa. In these midwest states (Nebraska for me), public transportation is very scarce.

Most jobs out here require we own a car, or have some way to reliably get to work. Most of the time that does not involve public transportation in any way.

Yeah. My comment was not meant to be a smug "hah, country folk" comment, but rather a reflection on how poor urban planning hurts so many people. I legitimately believe that it's impossible to work for certain companies in Iowa if you don't own a car. And you can tell from the story how hurtful that is to individuals and those companies.

That's worth a whole discussion in and of itself. Iowa is a terrible place to be: Homeless, looking for a tech job, without a car.

Does everyone have a driver's license there? In France none of my friends (and I) have one and we never really needed one.

Yes, pretty much the only places in America that you can survive without a car are New York and San Francisco, but who can afford the rents? I lived in Honolulu for several years and took the bus to work there, but it worked because I had a reverse commute and because the island is small and the ocean prevents expansion in several directions, the bus routes pretty much only run in two directions, which makes commuting possible, whereas in Chicago you would probably have to take a bus and then a train and then change trains to get to work and that would add up to about two hours commute each way each day - a deal breaker for me.

I would say Chicago too.

You can reliably get to work by walking... if you are homeless, you can reliably get to work by sleeping in the parking lot. I just really don’t see how not having a car is at all relevant to the question of reliably getting to work.

So how do for example blind people who cannot drive find work?

Less than 20% of people who are partially or totally blind are employed[1]. The vast majority simply don't.

[1] http://www.afb.org/info/blindness-statistics/adults/interpre...

A better question is "What jobs can blind people do?"

All jobs that involve sitting in front of a computer and typing things.

Kinda ignorant.

I think I'd focus on remote freelance work via sites like Codementor and the usual sites like Upwork (yes pay isn't great but there are some good gigs there) or your personal network. A recruiter is incentivized by filling the role, and that's usually the result of checking boxes. Unless they have no other candidates, what reason would they have for going the extra mile?

Or maybe driving to different locations is part of the job requirements?

Most jobs in the states ask if you own a car because if you don't then the likelihood is that you will either be late for work because of unreliable public transportation, or you would miss work because the person who is giving you a ride can't do it every day. So if you don't have a vehicle, you simply aren't hired because they predict you'll cause them problems.

Good news for op. I know a homeless developer who is not so lucky (yet?).

Emmanuel (we call him Mani) is a 50 (or 60?) year old homeless man who would smile and shake our hands every day when we showed up at our local library to hold coding hours. He came in to every single office hour from (4-8pm) to learn as much as he could and literally never missed a day in the 3 months pilot that we were there.

We learned from the librarians that for the past year, Mani has been coming to the library right when it opened (9am) and stayed until it closed (8pm) every day (including the weekend), trying to teach himself how to code. He was hoping to launch his website so he could make some money off ads. With a notepad++ on his usb drive, he coded every day piecing little things together. We taught him basic JavaScript and simple server stuff and helped him get his website up! https://newsgusher.garagescript.org/

Our office hours has ended, but Mani is still plowing away at the library. If you want to meet him, you can find him at Downtown San Jose Public Library on the third floor.

Wow that website loaded so fast. It kinda grows on me. Reminds me of the web back in the 90s when all HTML was coded mostly by hand.

The author kind of glosses over a lot of conflicts with friends, family, employers, and briefly mentions mental health problems. It sounds like that could be contributing a lot to his struggles.

I burned out of my first job because of poor mental health, which I didn't prioritize because work was all-consuming and being sick makes it hard to seek out help. I took a few months off before interviewing, and realized that I needed to get a job and really fight to break the cycle I'd been trapped in.

I don't have any great suggestions for the author getting back on his feet, but once he does he should prioritize building a 6-month safety net and working through whatever he's struggling with. Yoga, running and medication all helped me.

Get a job: don’t tell or show recruiter how desperate you are. Don’t tell recruiter you’re homeless. Work on portfolio of projects. GitHub.

Shelter: Get a van. Live in it. Boondocking is better than the cardboard box or couch surfing.

Food: Noodles. Vegetables. Rice. Chicken.

Tech: android tablets can run Linux and can support mouse and keyboard. Tablets are easier than laptops to charge. Laptops can do more. Trade offs.

Security: get some money into bank account ASAP. Make it a regular habit. Any money you’d put into alcohol etc put it into bank account. This is your safety net. Start from zero.

Street address: get a mailing address. Parents/friends may be able to help. You only need to visit. post office box can help as well but costs money.

Relationships: be careful. Your safety net is likely not strong enough to tolerate much failure. Counter argument: having someone else around can help in little ways.

Decisions: think critically. Need versus Want.

Mental health: read autobiographies. Read fiction. Read. Improve all gaps that seem easy to fix. Understand that homelessness is a hole you can dig yourself out of.

Health: teeth, hair etc hygiene is king. Drop any kind of drug other than coffee. Alcohol etc will make you an easy target.

Small steps.

This may sound a bit harsh, but dude you need to lower your standards. In the coding and startup world we created a cult like impossible dream to fulfill.

I have a startup that went through some very low lows. I had just quit my cushy job and had saved enough money to last for 2 years, but not my co-founders. When we ran through our funding, things became harsh. I funded everything out of my pocket.

The CTO couldn't afford his apartment anymore so I paid for his rent. Not long after, I got a family emergency and couldn't afford it anything anymore. I told him to get a part time job to help out. He squarely told me no. "Every successful startup founder lived in a van and dined on Ramen."

I stopped paying his rent. He moved into the office. I urged him to get a job because I couldn't afford it anymore. He refused. I stopped paying the office rent. He went homeless.

He lived on the generosity of strangers, though he went days without eating. He refused to get a job. As long as someone was helping him, he wouldn't work. We had to trick him to help him, a friend gave him some space to live together, then later told him that he needs to participate on paying rent. Only then he started looking for work.

There are a lot of conflicts the OP only mentioned in passing and didn't go into details. There is a lot more to this story, maybe the mental health issue nullify anything I say here. But thinking your story is like that of every unicorn tech founder can lead you to make terrible decisions.

Sometimes you have to be humble and make sacrifices to be able to move forward.

I was 'homeless' for a few months (in the sense that I didn't have a home) but for most of that time I had a high enough income that I could afford to stay in AirBnBs. It was a scary experience. At one point I had lost my job, I was about $6000 in debt, in a foreign country, with a 'dependent' spouse (also without job) and I only had about $1000 left on my credit card.

When I hear entrepreneurs talk about how much they risked to build their startup, I roll my eyes.

Once you've had to to do whatever it takes just to be able to afford to keep a roof over your head, what a lot of people call 'risk' actually doesn't seem risky at all. Would they have ended up sleeping on the streets if it didn't work out? It doesn't seem like it.

I understand now that difficulty and hardship are highly subjective. Probably some people would look at my experience and think that I had it easy.

It is very hard to compare 'risky' (you said that already); I know a fair bit of people who risked their health because of their startup; strokes & heartattacks because of not sleeping and continues, years long high levels of stress. When I see people in a wheelchair at 26, sleeping on the street doesn't sound too bad.

Also I am curious; I read often about the US (I presume you are from there, apologies if not) that people say what you say 'have to live on the streets if it didn't work out'; don't you have friends and family? Friends and/or family would take us in or provide a house until we get out of the hole; don't you have people like that? I read a lot in the news (but news is not very accurate these days) that for instance 60% of Americans couldn't get $1000 in an emergency; I wonder if this is some group where everyone is completely broke or if it's just sensational press.

The author mentions that his grandmother refused to let him live at her house after a falling out. He alluded to his parents being unable to house him. Basically, yes, I'd imagine that most homeless people in the United States don't have reliable family members to live with.

Been down to less than 200 dollars left spanning several credit cards with wife and kids. Never will I dig that hole again.

When I am out of money I am done. Come take what you want.

Don't spend what you don't have. Ever.

> When I am out of money I am done. Come take what you want.

If there is something of yours that I want, it has monetary value, and thus you are not actually out of money until everything that we could possibly want is gone.

Just sayin'.

No house and staying in Airbnb’s isn’t “homeless.”

It fits some definitions of homelessness. You are, for example, considered to be homeless if you are couch surfing and have no permanent address or if you are doubled up illegally with family. This is often termed "hidden homeless."

Rough sleeping is not the only situation that qualifies as homeless. A home is about more than a literal roof over your head.

Michele I always upvote your posts, you are a solid contributor here, ignore the haters upthread.

Most of the interactions here in this discussion have actually been positive. I try to be selective in replying to negative remarks. I don't always get it right. But outright ignoring all of them doesn't seem like the best policy to me.

For one thing, sometimes they bring up good points that legitimately need to be addressed, even if they aren't brought up in a very nice manner. I do my best to focus on replying constructively, though, granted, it can be hard to figure out where to draw that line and sometimes the framing of a remark makes it hard to reply without sounding defensive or something.

For another, if I take a hard policy of "ignoring the haters," then someone not being "nice enough" has committed an unspeakable crime, so to speak. My experience suggests this creates more problems than it solves. It is a form of shunning and I don't really want to do that. It works better to be willing to talk to people who are engaging me about the issues, even if it isn't always sweetness and light.

I continue to try to figure out how to do that in a way that furthers constructive discussion of the issues and without making it overly much about me, but sometimes that isn't obvious to other people. Sometimes people think I am upset and taking it personally when I'm not. I'm just trying to make a larger point and using this detail as an example to further that goal.

I don't know a solution for that. Maybe, someday, I will have everything figured out. But today is not that day. For now, I will continue to muddle forward as best I can, however imperfectly.

Have a great day.

I think what differentiates hopping between airbnbs and being homeless is whether you have the financial means to live in more stable conditions. Living in Airbnb’s could mean you’re a luxury traveler spending $100k+ year on accommodation or it could mean you can only pay for shelter on a day to day basis (ie you hustle for cash every day, convert it to some electronic format, and pay rent on a daily basis). There’s also the case where you can afford a 1room Airbnb in an area but not rent, which I also wouldn’t call homelessness


Homeless colloquially implies it's involuntary and they want but can't afford a more secure place to sleep.

I've technically lived homelessly many times, often while employed, commuting from beautiful campgrounds w/showers in off-seasons or nice hotels.

I know rich people who live entirely out of hotels and airbnb's who are technically homeless. There's a literal meaning to homeless and a figurative one, most people are using the latter.

It's not secure housing, either.

Indeed, but the resource issues are very different.

Very basics are still in play, and secure for periods of time. Plans can be made, changed. And the set of options is broader.

Homelessness, coupled with, or rooted in poverty is a much more difficult thing than hopping from hotel to airbnb, etc... is.

Not that I want to marginalize or judge this excellent thread, or anyone sharing.

Not my intent.

Just some clarity to improve relevancy.

You are objectively wrong.

A homeless individual is defined in section 330(h)(5)(A) as “an individual who lacks housing (without regard to whether the individual is a member of a family), including an individual whose primary residence during the night is a supervised public or private facility (e.g., shelters) that provides temporary living accommodations, and an individual who is a resident in transitional housing.” A homeless person is an individual without permanent housing who may live on the streets; stay in a shelter, mission, single room occupancy facilities, abandoned building or vehicle; or in any other unstable or non-permanent situation. [Section 330 of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C., 254b)]

And even if you weren't you should show more kindness to those that experience hardship - because that's what good people do.

In the US, different government departments define homelessness different ways [1]. How and why they came to do that would be a very interesting read. I had looked into this to see what it would take to legally check the "I'm homeless" box on the ACA exemption form, which I believe was under the HHS rule you posted. But that's different from what it would take to get housing assistance from HUD, and that's probably even different than how the average person would define "homeless".

[1] https://www.nhchc.org/faq/official-definition-homelessness/

You rudely preach kindness, for some reason assume that HN and its users are entirely located somewhere in the USA, and seem to think what a word 'objectively' means is how it's defined in some US law.

Do you mind sharing more about your circumstances? I'd like to understand how someone with a high income could become homeless.

I left Australia with the aim of relocating to Europe permanently and I traveled around Europe for a couple of months while staying at AirBnBs and working freelance for a US company (remotely); then for about 6 months I lived in Moscow (Russia) but the work started drying up (and I didn't have much savings left at that point).

I was running out of money and couldn't find a job as a developer in Moscow due to language barriers (also, developers don't get paid very well over there) - I tried to apply for jobs in London from Moscow but recruiters were ignoring my resume (probably because I was in Russia and didn't have a UK phone number). So I decided to fly to London and rent various AirBnBs (changing every week or so) while desperately applying for jobs and attending interviews. Thankfully my risky strategy worked out in the end and I managed to get a decent job and found an apartment in London.

You could have just purchased a UK phone number, couldn’t you?

The company could still figure out that he can't attend an on site interview and he's in Russia.

By the way, Russia is a particularly bad choice. Russians are not permitted to work in London, it's outside of Europe and there is no immigration agreement. The resume won't survive the first pass from HR.

I don't think that's true. In my experience there are many Russians moving to London for software positions. The parent is also not Russian from what I understand.

The company could sponsor a working VISA. It takes a fair amount of paperwork but it's doable.

Remember that you're competing against 300 million Europeans who can move to and work in London overnight. You better have a great profile to be worth the hassle. Forget about low level roles and smaller companies.

Let's ignore for a minute that the parent was not Russian. Having a Russian number is a red flag that the candidate may be abroad and not have the right to work in the UK. It's definitely screened out by HR.

Why do you capitalise ‘VISA’? What do you think it’s an acronym for? It’s just an English word.

Russians are not permitted to work in London

London is full of employed Russians so your information is perhaps outdated.

This would would only have helped me to get past the initial resume screening stage; but the face-to-face interviews are more important. I had to do a lot of face-to-face interviews in order to actually get a job so doing it all remotely while pretending to be a local would probably not have worked out. I did manage to line up a few interviews the week before moving to London; I was generally up front about my situation with recruiters (except for the running out of cash part).

Also, the prospect of ending up homeless in Russia without speaking the language was much more terrifying than being homeless in London; at least I would know how to beg in English lol. So I had a strong incentive to move even though I knew that my situation would become a race against time.

I am surprised you didn't pitch it as a vacation. For example: When they ask... saying "I took a 3-month sabbatical after completing my last contract and am currently traveling extensively. I will be back in London in two weeks after I finish my vacation. However, I am very interested in the role, and would love to do as much of the interview process as possible from here".

I never meet anyone from my actual company until 7 months after being hired... So I guess that just seems normal to me...

> Also, the prospect of ending up homeless in Russia without speaking the language was much more terrifying than being homeless in London;

Isn't that the kind of situation that you can turn up to the Aust consulate and say "Need ticket home!", which they'll generally make happen (for Aust citizens, in actual need).

It's hard to access most services in the UK without proof of a UK address

When I visited the UK (as a tourist), I walked into some phone company's store and walked out 10 mins later with a pay-as-you-go sim card and a UK number, no address or proof of anything other than "I have enough cash for this" needed.

This ^ .

Screwing up in the past and having bad credit would make it nearly impossible to rent a home. You generally need good credit and deposit money. With a high income you could have the deposit but it won't fix your credit.

If you have a high income at least you can get into AirBnBs or hotels, because they don't do credit checks.

Many hotels (the ones I would want to stay in) require a credit card with your name on it, which is a credit check. Many accept debit cards too with your name on it, but I assume opening a bank account also involved a credit check.

If you have a high income it's pretty easy to get a secured credit card or a debit card though.

If you truely have the income paying for several months rent up front will open doors.

do you live in a cold climate ?

I wonder if it would be just ok in a warm place with near zero crime rate.

"zero crime rate" often means "police harass the shit out of homeless folks because their mere presence makes the middle class people uncomfortable".

Police regularly steal and destroy homeless folks' belongings in most major cities. Every time a "tent city" is broken up, it means that everything someone owns that they can't carry on their person is being sent to the dump. Any time a homeless person is arrested, even for small infractions or for warrant violations because they couldn't afford to pay a ticket (I know several homeless folks who've gone to jail because they were ticketed for sleeping on public property and then couldn't pay the ~$300 fine), they probably have to start over when they get out...anything of value they had will be gone.

Homelessness could be much less destructive than it is, but people don't want it to be. They want "tough on crime", they want police to "clean up the streets", etc. Most cities, and their police, are actively out to get you on a daily basis if you're homeless. It just adds to the pile of uncertainty and stress that the very poor endure, and it's part of the cycle that keeps people homeless.

The savage moral superiority complex that so much of the U.S. population has for the homeless is appalling. The Just World Fallacy is a hell of a drug!

There is no such thing as a near zero crime rate for homeless people. Also, just being warm is not sufficient. Homeless people need so much more than that, it's daunting. A short starter list:

  * food & water
  * access to shower
  * laundry
  * medical care
  * dental care
  * education
  * legal advice / support
  * the list goes on...
(disclosure: 16 years of on-again, off-again homelessness as a child and a 6 month period of true homelessness as a young adult -- AirBnbs do not count.)

There is no such thing as a near zero crime rate for homeless people.

Some things that increase safety on the street:

Don't take any disrespect off of anyone. Push back or walk away at the first insult. Otherwise, it escalates.

Try to stay clean and look middle class. Short hair and cleanliness can get you mistaken for a tourist. It helps.

Camping in a wooded area is a good thing. Don't sleep too close to housing. They will call the cops.

Try to not be a trouble-maker yourself. The cops are much less likely to hassle you if you are merely dirt poor and sleeping outside somewhere.

I'll monitor some neighborhood, I really think there are spots with very few people there at night yet with a bit of space and benches to lay at night. Also I'm not in the US, the social climate there might be very different from Europe (more weapons and very sensitive to private property).

> Don't take any disrespect off of anyone. Push back or walk away at the first insult. Otherwise, it escalates.

Pushing back is a fast way to get arrested. No one questions a cop tackling a "crazy homeless guy" who was having an altercation with a fine, upstanding citizen.

Push back doesn't have to be ugly or escalating. It can be subtler and de-escalating. The entire point should be to de-escalate.

It's something I do a lot of. What you want is to avoid standing idly by while people slippery slope you into something super bad.

There was an incident at a library in Fresno where someone working for services sent their people to come "help" us and they were horribly disrespectful and I refused to answer their questions and called them on their rudeness. They went and complained to the librarians who basically sent them away.

After that, all library staff were vastly nicer to us.

Push back doesn't mean calling them names. It means calling out their socially unacceptable behavior.

I also sometimes refused to give my name to strangers who wanted to help and were inappropriately grilling me for information. I would point out that if I weren't homeless, they would never in a million years think it was okay to walk up to me and start peppering me with invasive questions.

That is the walk away part. Obviously, judgement is needed with police, but the general idea is to deescalate and not validate or encourage interaction.

If there is no reward, some work, you can be on your way.

An important concept here is your agency in interactions, dialog.

You do have control of your end of it, and that is a significant contributor to how it all goes. Put simply, there are a lot of options besides righteous indignation. Use them.

Doing that is not taking shit, more like managing it down and away.

Where power differentials are in play, this all matters. Peers, in that sense, allow for more.

These can be life saving when we are vulnerable and lacking resources, friends. Been there in my past. One time, it involved a gun, pointed right at me, loaded.

At that time, my agency, it's implications were never more clear.

The way I see it, being here to talk about it is a nice problem to have. Priorities. Sometimes they end up being really basic.

In my experience, that basic nature, personal agency --what is proper, what may be needed, what that all means, even just seeing the options possible, like all of them, or more than expected, is hard for people who have not had these kinds of experiences.

One week I measured how much water I needed to clean myself top to bottom: two glasses.

I eat low and don't feel hungry (although I don't suffer cold which drains energy fast)

I agree that it can be daunting but I think it's not the quantity it's the regularity of supplies.

> One week I measured how much water I needed to clean myself top to bottom: two glasses.

This measurement is meaningless without calibrating for how dirty you were to start with. I'm going to go out on a limb and assume you were mostly clean and presentable, wearing freshly cleaned clothes daily, only needing to wash off some sweat and skin oils.

A person living rough on the streets will probably be wearing dirty clothes for days or weeks, and constantly be exposed to the elements. The grime accumulates, and unless you've reproduced these conditions in your experiment, your figures are unrealistic.

Of course I was talking about water requirement for regular daily showers. It would be stupid to speak about rough dirt.

The context of the parent you were replying to was homeless people, and your reply appears to suggest that they could bathe with a couple glasses of water. It's absurd.

It's not absurd, it was to measure to minimum amount of daily water one needs to maintain hygiene. Some homeless people rely on public bath house which are disgusting and not always available, I know now that I only need two cup of water (and a shower mitt) to do so.

It's irrelevant to the requirements of a homeless person. You're basically not dirty at all living a typical domestic western life spent mostly at a keyboard and indoors.

oh and btw, I didn't mean that as a burden to homeless people, but as a data point. It's worth knowing for everybody else, if you know how few they need, we can all give them a bit every day.

I'll try it on my next forest week

Two glasses of water is perhaps barely enough to wash my (fairly unimpressive) hair with shampoo, and the hand better be steady. Is there some special technique?

True I forgot hairs, maybe I had very short ones at the time. So my comment was for everything else, when I meant top to bottom, I meant scrubbing and washing everything damn clean, not just a quick job.

A bit related too, if you're homeless, cut your hairs. You won't look homeless and you'll need less water :)

Possibly spongebaths and a buzzcut could make that work. But it's quite a goal to work towards. Taking a shower with a closed drain (if you have tub/shower) suggests I'd need a lot more.

Showering is an incredibly wasteful form of bathing, most of the water just goes down the drain doing absolutely nothing.

This is why I used a Glass

Sponges and low standards or 1 gallon glasses

Been there done that. Worked a lot of other jobs too to survive (driving forklift, welder's help, construction) - got too injured to continue that so went back to fighting to work office jobs. Eventually succeeded. I spent 20 years in that half way world of not enough to survive, not enough to stay off the streets but I'm off now and have been for 7+ years now.

The first employer that got me off the streets I didn't tell I was homeless. I worked for them for a month crashing out in friends' couches until I could move into a tiny apartment walking distance from the job.

(there's levels of homeless. I only spent weeks on the streets themselves and about a year living out of an old beater car I could keep functional)

I don't really have anything to add, other than try to work other stuff. Unless you live somewhere ridiculously expensive (like - oh - my last city of Vancouver BC) - you'll probably be able to drag yourself out with even a minimum wage warehouse job or the like, and get yourself set for going back into main career.

My favourite warehouse job I worked for a year. Every day saying how great my vacation was going ;) (half of that was living in a car. But I made it)

Op First thing, I dont think I can ever understand the pain you are going through. I just wish you the best , remember you are in one of the high demand field and it would be very easy for you to bounce back.

Next I would suggest you stop looking for remote jobs and temporary gigs. Those things are only useful when you already have roof over your head and food to eat. Based on maslow hierarchy of needs, your number one focus should be to get roof/food etc. I see you are creating side projects but I would ask you to focus on getting a full time job which can give you reliable salary. This may require mind shift but its not written in stone.

Third thing I would say is that past is gone. Its literally gone, it only exist now in your memory so hopefully you can let go and create path forward. Seems like you are already step ahead because you are taking responsibility for all that has happened. I would also suggest you try to change your environment and get to a bigger city where you can find more jobs and some better city resources.

Good luck

Hang in there, you're still young and healthy. It gets better. You can become a programmer, and there are jobs out there.

Now, some harsh advice: You are being completely unrealistic in your expectation of a remote position while you live in rural Iowa.

Problem 1: Where you are located


Get out of Iowa. Seriously. The tech-hub effect is real and Iowa has very few job opportunities for programmers. Source: I grew up in rural Iowa and I know how to use Linkedin.

All of the places I've chosen to live in my life have been VERY foot-traffic friendly. Examples of such cities: Denver. Chicago. Portland, Or. San Francisco. Austin. Columbus. Kansas City, MO. Minneapolis. Somewhere you can walk and live without having a car. Places that have companies hiring programmers. You can save a ton of money by not having a car and just using public transit and walking.

Problem 2: Transportation:


I have NEVER owned a car. I lived in Chicago for 10 years. I took public transit or biked. Saved me thousands of dollars over the years. Why do you want to spend $300/mo on car payments for an asset that is constantly deprecating and has poor resale value while you are struggling to keep a roof over your head?

Problem 3: The Remote Position


Some harsh advice on this remote position notion: You need to look for another job while learning coding on the side if you want to stick to your guns as a remote developer. I'll enumerate the reasons below:

1. Nobody wants to take a chance on an unproven 20-something programmer for a remote position. Remote positions tend to be for people with a proven track record.

2. Your Linkedin is not filled out enough to compete for remote positions. You don't seem to have had any real programming positions for an extended period of time. You should be going for entry level positions currently.

3. You have no formal education, which can often be substituted for actual work experience. Google touts that they hire TONS of people with no formal degree. Almost 15% (on certain teams)! Yep, degrees don't matter if you're willing to roll the dice on being part of that lucky ( Or extremely brilliant ) 15%!

4. Remote positions are still relatively rare. By limiting yourself to remote positions you are excluding yourself from most possible jobs.

Edit: On the list of great cities to move to, Des Moines is also a viable option.

> Remote positions tend to be for people with a proven track record.

I didn't think about this before, but that looks a really good observation. Hiring someone working remotely means it's harder to track their performance and productivity. So you will need some credentials to prove that you have the discipline to work remotely.

Des Moines has a significant tech footprint now.

Great point, updating

One thing I found interesting straight off - by the cartoons and tech described (Pentium ii as a hand me down computer, internet connections at school and at homes) the author is at least 10 years younger than me - yet they started using the same language I did: qbasic.

Being poor rather than middle class put them about a decade behind on the tech curve.

At least in my part of the world, qbasic remained a popular beginner language through the 90s to the early 2000s. It was easy to get, and there was plenty of tutorials available for it. Visual Basic didn't have the same appeal unless you wanted to do desktop applications, and I guess it was harder to get your hands on. C and C++ were not considered too beginner friendly. I don't think there was much competition for QBasic on its merits, at least in the Microsoft world.

To me it looks like a lot of hobbyists here started their dabblings with QB until web development (read: PHP) took over.

As they have gotten the pentium 2 (the top of the line, most expensive CPU in 1997) as a free hand-me-down computer & considering ubuntu first released in 2004, the author probably got started at the earliest in the mid '00s - by then you'd probably get started with something like flash.

But I agree QB was surprisingly long-lived, this 80s era tool probably lasted as long as Windows 98 (i.e. till XP became the "default" windows version).

Luckily Ubuntu on a Pentium II might be dog slow but most programming languages will work just fine.

Oh yes you can definitely do useful programming on a Pentium II!

One thing that could help is using youth hostels, when I lost my apartment I was able to find a $25 a day youth hostel where I stayed for 3 weeks but I was able to hold on to my office job without anyone finding out I no longer had my own place.

Every government should be addressing homelessness with "housing first" approaches.


Being homeless is HARD and does not make it any easier to address any of your other problems.

We should all be telling our elected officials we want a "housing first" approach.

Hey Jesse, I can sympathize with your situation, and I've seen you get some really solid advice in other comments here so I'll just add my 2¢ about presenting yourself.

I have a couple of probing questions, and I mean no offense, just to provoke thought:

1) What good is atheism as a worldview if it prevents you from communicating, and even receiving help you desperately need?

2) Why would a recruiter or potential employer care about your past, living arrangements, or financial troubles?

You sound like a smart, driven guy, but I think you're letting your situation and your beliefs cripple your potential right now. You don't have to _change_ those things, they're real, but you might want to limit who you share them with, or in what context, especially until you can find the help you need.

Wishing you the best!

There was a PDF I saw many years ago, posted to craigslist, that was written by a homeless man, but consciously choosing to be homeless.

It had an interesting description of various strategies used.

I think he lived in Hawaii and would eat "free" Burger King by rummaging through the trash during a sweepstakes and finding the coupons for free food.

He also rented a small storage unit to keep his possessions (including a laptop), and had a gym membership for showering.

Anybody else come across this?


One root motivation is just wanting to be lean. Needing to generate X per month can be something people do not want to do. Or cannot do.

If high expectations are not set, what remains can be met.

Meeting low expectations is definitely a choice.

Thanks for sharing man, I hope it gives you hope that so many people are engaging with your story. I'm from Iowa so I know how brutal the winters can be, can't imagine what it's like without a roof over your head. Fortune landed me in San Francisco at the right time, but it wasn't so kind to my brother. He's making ends meet back in Iowa, but just barely.

The advice I would offer is self love and hustle. Anytime you hear that voice saying you fucked up, acknowledge it and let it go. Today is a new day full of opportunity. Have you tried grabbing gigs on Upwork or Freelancer? If you've got the chops, most gigs would pay well enough to get you rent in Iowa pretty quick. Keep your chin up, and keep hacking!

Being homeless can also drive people mad up to a point when they cant get back to normal life, it may be some sort of PTSD.

Sounds like you never learned how to do anything outside of coding. There is more to succeeding in life than being able to code.

Have you looked at the GitHub profile? Don't want to be harsh, but it looks like he never really learned how to code either, which is kind-of sad. I'm not a stickler for education, but there's something to be said for at least finishing highschool; you learn how to learn if nothing else.

Did we look at the same GitHub profile? I see a Conway's Game of Life implementation in Python [1], a few (admittedly simple) games in Python and Lua, a web framework written in Lua [2], a web app in Lua using said framework [3], and a host of other experiments in JS, Ruby and PHP.

IMO this is the work of someone who could become a great asset to any software development team.

[1]: https://github.com/jessehorne/life

[2]: https://github.com/jessehorne/kolba

[3]: https://github.com/jessehorne/glance

It's a bit basic yes, but I wouldn't say it showed he never learned to code or what not. I mean, not everyone posts all their work on GitHub or similar services, and quite a few developers don't even have a portfolio of any kind.

Someone's GitHub presence isn't necessarily a good judge of their skill as a developer, nor how much experience they've had in general.

I gave a quick look only because I'm on mobile but I'm really curious about what makes you say that. He might not be incredible but your comment makes it seem like he knows absolutely nothing which I wouldn't say it's true

I did not, only read through the Medium article/blog. As you alluded to, high school provides more than just standard book education. Those 4 years you learn how to deal with people, relationships, politics of an organization, how problems affecting more than a few people are solved/planned, how to deal with rejection etc... These are skills he now needs to learn in the real world that carry greater risks outside of learning them in high school.

I'm not sure how to efficiently parse a GitHub profile but in what way does it indicate he never learned how to code?

Most of the projects are straight forks with no additions, or puerile flatline dumps of boilerplate - generated structures with little to no meat. I don't want to put anyone down, he's obviously in a tough situation, but I maybe would've left the GitHub link out, it doesn't add anything (positive) to the story.

The GitHub may be insufficient evidence that he is a good coder, but it doesn't strike me as evidence that he "never learned to code", yet that is what you said, and that is the impression people will be left with if they do not check for themselves.

I looked at the GitHub expecting to genuinely find actual examples of really bad code due to your statement, but that is not what I found, mostly I found a pretty empty GitHub, which is not too interesting, I know lots of perfectly good coders with empty GitHubs or no GitHubs at all.

> maybe would've left the GitHub link out, it doesn't add anything (positive) to the story

That is another matter, unrelated to you saying they "never learned to code" without, what it looks like, any evidence.

Soft skills are almost as important as coding skill for a developer.

I wouldn't call being able to take care of yourself a soft skill. Laundry, cooking, finance; all hard skills required to survive.

Reading this whole thread, I really don't get it. This guy has to have fucked up a lot to get to this point, and noen of those details were evaluated in the article.

My own grandmother is a hardcore christian, and I am an "atheist". At no point in my life have I ever burned so many bridges as to not be able to stay with her if things got bad enough. It reads like the childish mind of some edgy early 2000s 15 year old trying to rationalize why their family is pissed at them.

I read through this whole thing and all I could think of was that this guy is absolutely pathetic for wasting so many opportunities. Sometimes you just deserve the shit you get.

I meant more "getting along with others" (for lack of a better term) than cooking and cleaning. If you want to be a developer you need to be able to work on a team, work with bosses, and even sometimes work with clients.

He seems to have, uhhhh..., burned every bridge he ever had; yet, apparently has absolutely no idea what he's doing to turn everyone else away! Don't want to be too harsh, but that's what is written between the lines. He desperately needs social skills.

This guys code on GH is quite a bit better and broad than plenty of actual hires I've been part of. Kind of ridiculous someone who's gone as far as understanding and playing with cellular automata off their own back can't find stable work. Also someone presenting code in Lua, PHP, Python, JS and Ruby... you're lucky if someone has 100 lines of pure copy paste Python on GH.

Hey dude Just read your story. I'm sorry that it ended how it did but I am really amazed of your strength and determination! I mean, wow, to go through that and still keep on fighting? That takes character! I'm certain things will change to the better. Our industry need more people with your determination. Keep up the hard work, Jesse.

All the best from hopefully a future colleague

I recently quit web development and decided to get regular work. It just wasn't working out for me in my town/country (not in the US). My catch 22 was no experience, no chance. I couldn't even offer my services for free to get that experience, because companies just didn't need/want me.

I could have easily been homeless during the 2 years after I graduated, but thanks to the social welfare system, I was taken care of as a job seeker.

I'm now interested in something I call self startup ideas, which is currently making games for (mostly) mobile that might take off. This is only a hobby I allocate a couple of hours a day to though. Otherwise I'm doing unskilled labour for minimal wage.

I've had mixed feelings about my experience as a web developer. It was something I had so much passion for (even before I went to study it), but now I'm kind of glad I've walked away, as it has been a source of so much toxicity in my life recently. Kind of like kicking a really bad habit.

Hey Jesse, I am throwing a couple of random ideas here:

- https://www.indiehackers.com/forum/how-would-you-make-an-ext..., most interesting I found the "teach chinese kids english"

- Small freelance gigs, as a native english speaker you have distinct advantage - https://www.upwork.com/, https://www.fiverr.com/

- Probably not an option because of initial costs but there is a huge shortage for developers in Europe, especially CEE where costs are low and wages growing fast. Even call centers would gladly pay $1000+/month just for your english.

- Drop me a line (email in profile). I don't have anything right now but sometimes I'm looking for some help for side projects.

Good luck!

Sounds like he just needs to learn how to lie better in a job interview.

Look at the bright side: at least he can pass background checks, there's no mention of a criminal record.

There's a guy in his 40s on freenode/#SDL who is constantly ranting about being unable to find work because he was involved in some gang stuff in his youth giving him a criminal record.

I have a felony record. Unless your in fintech the tech sector doesn't care.

Hang in there. More of us have been in this situation or close to it than you know. Hopefully at a developer meet up you will find that first rung of the ladder.

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