Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

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.




Registration is open for Startup School 2019. Classes start July 22nd.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: