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Trees For Cars – homeless man taught to code releases first smartphone app after just 4 months


It’s one of those good Samaritan stories that’s just tailor made for the Christmas season. Young programmer walking to work one day in New York sees homeless man sleeping on a bench and comes up with an ingenious, some would say diabolical, plan. Offer the man a choice of $100 cash or a cheap laptop and some programming lessons for an hour each day.

To the surprise of everyone, including a very cynical media, the homeless dude, Leo Grand, accepts the coding lessons and proceeds to confound everyone by churning out thousands of lines of code over four months to produce his first Android and iOS app – Trees For Cars.


Leo coded the app wherever and whenever he could, still sleeping rough, and putting up with freezing weather, as well as an arrest and confiscation of the laptop, and still manages to churn out code day after day whilst learning his craft.


Soon he’s something of an Internet celebrity, with 49,000 friends on his Facebook page and a growing number of TV and radio interviews under his belt. He is eventually persuaded to sleep on a friend’s couch while continuing to build the app, until finally this week, the app is released.


There’s nothing corporate flashy about the program, but it’s got a good heart. The app provides a ride sharing service, so people can save money and help save the planet by leaving their car at home, hence the name Trees For Cars. It’s a paid app, $0.99, the funds from which will go towards funding a better life for this enterprising fellow.


If you have the time, check out this CNN video about Leo and the project because it is a genuinely interesting glimpse into how someone’s life can be changed through the simple kindness of another. A worthy tale indeed.

In the meantime, why not spend a little cash supporting a nice cause? It may not change the world, but it could save some trees, and help someone out.

Nigel is the managing editor of the Red Ferret, as well as a freelance columnist for the Sunday Times newspaper in London. Loves tech and fancies himself as a bit of a futurist, but then don’t we all?

Nigel – who has written posts on The Red Ferret Journal.

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