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Good Samaritan teaches homeless man computer coding

Nov. 25, 2013 at 9:24 AM ET

Video: A good Samaritan taught a 37-year-old man living on the streets how to write computer code, changing his life completely. Now Leo Grand is looking for a home, a job, and a place to present his custom-made carpooling app. NBC’s Craig Melvin reports and Grand and his benefactor, Patrick McConlogue, visit TODAY.

One day software engineer Patrick McConlogue was walking to work in New York City when he decided to make an unorthodox offer to a homeless man.

He approached Leo Grand, who lives on the streets, and gave him a choice: $100, or a laptop and the opportunity to learn how to write computer code. Along with the second choice McConlogue pledged to spend an hour a day for two months teaching Grand a valuable job skill.

“I came to an immediate decision,’’ Grand told TODAY Monday. “The hundred dollars will last you for a short time. Learning how to code will last you for a lifetime.”

So McConlogue, 23, bought Grand, 37, a laptop and three textbooks, and began teaching him the language of computers. It was a lifeline for Grand, a computer lover who said he’s been sleeping in shelters for two years since the rent at his former apartment shot up and he was evicted.

Grand has proven to be an apt student under McConlogue’s tutelage. “The speed at which I’m going through these lessons is insane,’’ McConlogue told TODAY. “We barely cover things twice. His memory is really, really good."

The lessons are going so well, in fact, that Grand is working on a free app designed to promote carpooling to combat global warming. He hopes to land a job and a place to live soon, while helping defy stereotypes about the homeless.

“All homeless people are mentally ill, lazy, unintelligent — that's the stigma,’’ he said. "It doesn't really matter [about] your living arrangements as long as you've got the mindset to do it and the will.”

“You give a man a fish, you feed him for a day,’’ McConlogue said. “You teach a man to fish, and you watch him change the world."

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