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Homeless, Unemployed, and Surviving On Bitcoins 403

Posted by Soulskill
from the when-does-money-become-money dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Wired profiles a homeless man who's supporting himself primarily through Bitcoin. Jesse Angle, a former network engineer, earns small amounts throughout the day by visiting various websites that pay him to look at ads. He then converts it to gift certificates and uses the certificates to buy food. '"It's a lot less embarrassing," he says. "You don't have to put yourself out there." And unlike panhandling in Pensacola, using an app like Bitcoin Tapper won't put him on the wrong side of the law. This past May, Pensacola — where Angle has lived since April — passed an ordinance that bans not only panhandling but camping on city property.' Angle learned about Bitcoin from a charity organization called Sean's Outpost that wanted something better than PayPal for accepting donations over the internet. The organization has even opened an outreach center paid for solely with Bitcoins. Founder Jason King said, 'Bitcoin beats the s#!% out of regular money, We've resonated so well with people because it's direct action. There's no chaff between donation and helping people.'"
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Homeless, Unemployed, and Surviving On Bitcoins

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 20, 2013 @11:03AM (#44902945)

    eHobo?

  • by ArcadeMan (2766669) on Friday September 20, 2013 @11:08AM (#44903001)

    Homeless guys drinking Monster energy drinks? That crap is very expensive.

    • Re:Homeless? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 20, 2013 @11:19AM (#44903139)

      Indeed. This isn't a real homeless person -- the type who not only doesn't have a job, but doesn't have much chance of getting a job (any job). This is merely a person who refuses to work "beneath himself". We all know he could have a job at Wal-Mart, 7-11, or McDonald's within a few hours. He just refuses to do it.

      • by unixisc (2429386)
        That would play havoc w/ his work history on his resume
      • I would have through drugs or alcohol are preventing him from holding down any job but you may be right too. I'm a very social, user-friendly IT manager that also does field work so I'd make one of the best car salesmen ever let alone someone selling TVs and computers and Best Buy or something. I totally don't want to do that though but if I got fired (for posting on Slashdot all day, loooool) I'd probably hop on that pretty quick.
        • Generally to actually wind up without a place to live, one of those two things come in to play. With mental issues it is fairly easy to understand: The person is crazy, does not perceive reality, and makes choice most find very strange. Also, even if help is available (which it quite often isn't in the US), they don't want it since a sad part of many mental illnesses is to make you not think you are ill. After all they are a problem with the brain and your brain is what you use to tell if you have problems.

        • Best Buy does not want people who know what they are doing they want people who can sell and sell rip off geek squad stuff and useless protection plans

      • by Ardyvee (2447206)

        You sure? Unemployment rate seems to be around 7% in the USA [bls.gov] and from what I've read around those numbers don't actually count the number of people that aren't employed, just the ones that are registered in welfare (or something like it, I forget). Two, he can't really move from where he is, so he can't move to where jobs may be. And considering the numbers, I doubt anybody outside of his city would be willing to pay him to move.

        So, tell me where would he be able to find a job where many others have faile

      • by Fencepost (107992) on Friday September 20, 2013 @11:42AM (#44903445) Journal

        We all know he could have a job at Wal-Mart, 7-11, or McDonald's within a few hours.

        It's quite possible that he could get such a job, though I don't know what the job market is like in Pensacola (I believe that's where the article indicated he was). That doesn't mean that he could afford rent somewhere - from the article, the main person being discussed became homeless initially after a multi-roommate apartment fell apart, and has bounced in and out of being able to afford a place since.

        The more interesting part of the article is that some homeless are now starting to use Bitcoin as a way to get around not having a bank account (hard to do when you have no fixed address, I believe). This ties in well with many low-income folks having (disproportionally?) good smartphones - they can do it because that's the Internet access they can afford, and if they actually have a contract they may be getting decent phones because they can manage the installments.

        • by IamTheRealMike (537420) <mike@plan99.net> on Friday September 20, 2013 @11:58AM (#44903653) Homepage

          It's worse than that. Yes, you need some kind of an address to get a bank account thanks to stricter AML laws passed in the PATRIOT Act.

          However, if you spend a while in the cash economy, when you do get back on your feet many banks will refuse to take your cash as a deposit. Because they don't know how you got that cash, they are afraid of being considered money launderers by allowing you to deposit it. So once people fall out of the banking system it can be hard to get back in, which then in turn keeps these people down (and more likely to be criminals). All in the name of fighting the terrorists.

          By the way, the US government knows the power of being evicted from the financial system full well. That's why they're starting to enforce US law internationally even though they can't jail people outside their borders. Instead of jail the punishment they use is being blacklisted from the financial system and having all your bank accounts closed. If you're a middle class guy with a home, a mortgage, kids etc and one day banks stop wanting to deal with you because you pissed off the US, then you could find yourself on the street faster than you might think. After all, what are you going to do when your bank accounts get closed - take out your life savings and pension as cash?

        • by geek (5680)

          It's quite possible that he could get such a job, though I don't know what the job market is like in Pensacola (I believe that's where the article indicated he was). That doesn't mean that he could afford rent somewhere.

          So he can leave Pensacola and go where the jobs/money are. My dad moved our family from Florida to Michigan to Arizona and then CA for work. He never batted an eye, never thought to get hand outs or bitch that life wasn't fair. He went where the work is. I'm sick of the lazy bastards who wont move for a good job and a chance to better their life.

          • by Uberbah (647458)

            My dad moved our family from Florida to Michigan to Arizona and then CA for work. He never batted an eye, never thought to get hand outs or bitch that life wasn't fair. He went where the work is.

            Uh huh. And how did he do that - by giving you piggyback rides back and forth across the U.S., or giving blowjobs to hitchhike? Or did he pack you guys up in the family car and pay for gas along the way?

            I'm sick of the lazy bastards who wont move for a good job and a chance to better their life.

            I'm sick of sociopa

      • How can people refuse to take some menial job that can easily be automated (self-service checkout, roomba...)? How dare they choose not to do what benefits me by satisfying my need to control others' choices? By Jove, I must find some excuse to compel them ... how about economics? Of course I know by the Modigliani-Miller theorem that debt doesn't matter, but I'll cynically use it as an emotional ploy to reassert my divine right to force others to behave according to my whims!1

      • they may not hire some with even 3 years IT to work min wage and even if they do get the job it may be 5-10-20 hours a week.

      • by Nadaka (224565)

        A job at wal-mart, 7-11 or McDonalds does not pay well enough to pay rent, food, transportation for a person. And those are jobs that will require a home address and transportation. Even combining 2 such incomes does not allow a pair of people to have reliably cover basic costs. That requires 3 or more people in such positions per household.

        • by mythosaz (572040)

          Says who?

          It's not a great life, but there's a whole world of people living on less than $300/week. Even with a modest $800/mo after taxes, with no public assistance of any sort you can eat, have your own studio apartment, and take the bus to work -- just like everyone you've ever seen on the bus does. Do you have to get a roommate - or just rent a room - if you live somewhere where housing is expensive? Probably. Do you have to eat "poor people food" from actual grocery stores? Probably.

          But this idea t

      • by Valdrax (32670) on Friday September 20, 2013 @12:08PM (#44903753)

        We all know he could have a job at Wal-Mart, 7-11, or McDonald's within a few hours.

        You obviously don't know anyone who works in that segment of the economy. None of those places are "always hiring," and most have backlogs of resumes to go through. Worse, having a resume with a good job history on it is poison for low-end jobs, where people assume that you'll be jumping ship at first chance for a better job more in line with what you've done. Speaking from experience, no one wants someone with 7 years of development experience and a fresh law degree to deliver their pizzas.

        Plus, my friend who does work for Wal-mart? He'd be homeless too if he couldn't live with him Mom based on what they pay him in his eternally part-time position.

    • But he's got to be an EXTREEEEEEEME homeless guy. That requires Monster or Mountain Dew or Red Bull or Doritos.
  • At some point the city library will want to save money by switching off the external sockets - or charging a nominal amount. This will close him down
    • The amount of money they would probably save would be at most a couple dollars per year. Charging cell phones and even laptops every day or two uses a minimal amount of energy compared to keeping a room lit up
      • Politics. Why is panhandling banned? Because a lot of people don't want to see it. Why is camping banned? Because then the homeless will have to move and become Someone Else's Problem. If supplying free power eventually leads to a small 'homeless camp' appearing for a few hours a day as they all charge their phones, you can be sure the city would find some way to put an end do it.

    • by operagost (62405)
      I'd let these guys use the inverter in my car for .001 BTC/min.
  • Homelessness (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 20, 2013 @11:13AM (#44903073)

    This past May, Pensacola — where Angle has lived since April — passed an ordinance that bans not only panhandling but camping on city property.

    They can pass all the laws they want, but until they do something about unemployment, mental illness, and drug abuse, people will continue begging for money and "camping" on city property. You can put them in jail (which, for some, would be a step up in living conditions), but then you'll spend a lot of money while doing nothing to address the actual problem.

  • Good news! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 20, 2013 @11:13AM (#44903083)

    My sister's husband's nephew is homeless but makes $4,500 a month just looking at Internet ads!!! You can too!!!

    For more information go here:
    http://www.makemoneywhilelivingunderthebridge.com

    • by earlzdotnet (2788729) on Friday September 20, 2013 @11:22AM (#44903175)
      Not sure if spam or genuine comment
      • by Sarten-X (1102295)
        Amusing either way.
      • by cdrudge (68377)

        Since makemoneywhilelivingunderthebridge.com isn't registered, it would be a pretty ineffectual spam message. But then again, a good portion of the spam messages I get have broken, malformed, or incomprehensible links so I guess it's still probably unclear.

        Its otherwise correct spelling and grammar with the exception of multiple exclamation points makes me think it's a genuine comment, and above par for most Slashdot comments to boot.

    • by dmbasso (1052166)

      I started reading "My sister" and immediately thought "hookers accepting bitcoin! neat!"

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 20, 2013 @11:20AM (#44903153)

    I saw large screen laptops, a smart phone, monster energy drink, bottled water, etc. in the articles photos. However, he was bummed out he lost power while playing a game on said large screen laptop. I guess it does suck being destitute in the US. Imagine your CoD game cut short. I will call BS on the poor homeless pity me routine.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      And 2 packs of cigarettes, that like $8 right there. Like many who do the boohoo routine about being poor, they can't control their own spending and spend on the most frivolous things all the while saying "I can't live." What bullshit.

      • Why are people like you so pissy because some homeless people happen to live better than dogs?
        And why do you feel you have to care? if you want to live your self-centered, hateful and ignorant life then mind your own business.

    • I suppose the way it can work is this - after a reasonable if not rich life style, they lose a job and lose the apartment. They now get food stamps, but it's not quite enough to live off each months, so they end up living on the street. Due to the lack of rent payments, they now have enough money from social security to buy OK food and drinks. They still have laptop and phone from before things went south, even though they might not be able to afford a new one.

  • Internet Advertising (Score:3, Interesting)

    by beernutmark (1274132) on Friday September 20, 2013 @11:23AM (#44903187)
    Yet another reason that internet advertising isn't the great value it is said to be. Those of us who are targeted by the ads are using abp and the ads are being watched by people doing so only for the cash.
    • That explains the "make megabucks working from home" ads that I see. I assumed it was the usual money laundering "work". I'm not sure wether clicking on ads for things you have no intention of buying is morally better or worse than using your bank account to help launder money...
  • Not bitcoins. (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    earns small amounts throughout the day by visiting various websites that pay him to look at ads.

    He's not "surviving on bitcoins", he's surviving off ad viewing.
    This has been around long before bitcoin, and will be around long after.
    What currency he chooses to get paid in really isn't important, but hey, you need people to click your damn story.

  • ./ is plagiarizing headlines now. What, editors, can't think up your own?

  • >he still gets paid in bitcoin, just because it’s easier and safer. He doesn’t have to worry as much about getting robbed.

    Unless...someone steals his laptop.

    >> Angle used to work as a network engineer and a computer repair technician — as well as a carpenter and a pool cleaning guy, among other jobs — but the work eventually petered out.

    ...and now I'm buying him food stamps and energy drinks so he can help marketing departments game search engines? Awesome.

    • He doesn't have to worry as much about getting robbed.

      Unless...someone steals his laptop.

      Actually, if the wallet is deterministic and encrypted with a passphrase—the default for the Electrum client, among others—and he either memorized the seed or recorded it somewhere safe, then even that wouldn't be a problem. Of course, he'd still be out the cost of replacing the laptop, but he wouldn't lose his bitcoins.

      Physical theft of the device is less of a threat these days than malware. Malicious software running on your device has a better chance of being able to access your private keys.

  • by mythosaz (572040) on Friday September 20, 2013 @11:43AM (#44903453)

    Nope.

    Not buying it.

    He might be suplimenting his income by clicking on bitcoin ads all day long (or having a script do it), but he's not panhandling enough in just Bitcoins to do that. Getting paid in uBTC is tedious at best. You couldn't ge a single pack of the cigarette's he's smoking that way.

  • Since there is such a shortage of IT workers that we have to open the borders of the US, it is clear this guy is homeless by choice.

    Anyone who thinks there is immigrant displacement of US workers is a neo-Nazi sympathizer at best. [vdare.com]

  • by tekrat (242117) on Friday September 20, 2013 @11:47AM (#44903505) Homepage Journal

    But with a laptop, smartphone and internet access? Seriously?
    What this guy needs to do is get the hell out of Florida and into a state with an economy where he can get a job. Probably the only reason he's unemployed is Florida. Maybe he just wants to surf all day rather than spend time in the office. Somehow I'm doubting that a homeless man has all these digital toys, yet, didn't give those up to avoid being "homeless".

    Someone's being scammed here, and it's us Slashdot readers for even believing ONE WORD in this story. What's next, this homeless man gets his own reality TV series?

    • by captjc (453680)

      Dumbass, doesn't he know that he could surf all day from the office?

    • by DarkTempes (822722) on Friday September 20, 2013 @12:19PM (#44903885)
      He doesn't pay for internet. He uses free public wifi in a park. He mainly survives off of food stamps but uses the bitcoin revenue to supplement that.
      I seriously doubt he pays a phone bill unless it's prepaid, certainly not for data. Bitcoin doesn't require a bank account (which often charges a monthly fee if you have too little money) and people can't beat you up and take your bitcoins.

      And exactly how is selling your laptop to maybe afford one more month of rent going to help your living situation? Then you're just homeless without a laptop.
      I think he has proved that keeping the laptop is worth its weight in food as a potential income source.

      I don't understand why people always hate on the homeless. Is it so impossible to imagine a situation where you're down on your luck and fall through the cracks? Not everyone has a safety net of family and friends. I almost feel like the idea scares people so much that they get reflexively angry about as a form of denial.

      "It's impossible! This could obviously never happen to me and so these people must be scammers, scum, or addicts!"
  • "Homeless" (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 20, 2013 @11:58AM (#44903655)

    When I was younger - early teens to late teens, my father would volunteer with food banks, homeless shelters and with the handicapped (these would frequently overlap with the same people). This meant that I too would volunteer (whether I wanted to or not). Anyways, I would hear the same story a lot of the time about how through no fault of their own these people would lose their job, their house and cars and would have nowhere to go. They wanted help in the form of food, place to stay, etc..

    In my experience maybe 1/10 of these people were genuinely down on their luck and looking for help to start over. They would do what it took to get back on their feet. The other 9 merely paid lip service to this. They actually preferred to live on the street and continue the lifestyle of not being a part of "normal" society. We'd help these people get into a program where they have food/shelter and a step by step system to start managing their lives and getting a job - they'd leave the next day because they cant' handle or don't want structure in their lives. They want to be "free" and "independent" but at the same time don't want to have to make an equal contribution to society to pay back these resources they use.

    I look at this guy lounging outside a library with his laptop, drinking monster energy drinks and eating chicken pot pies. He's taking food stamps to support himself and yet he buys shitty unhealthy food that's way too expensive for someone on a restricted income. I got one thing to say to this guy and his friends, "Go fuck yourself!".

  • by Culture20 (968837) on Friday September 20, 2013 @12:02PM (#44903691)
    Worked in internet advertising between tech jobs.
  • by dex22 (239643) <plasticuser.gmail@com> on Friday September 20, 2013 @12:12PM (#44903811) Homepage

    A few bitcoin donations helped me make my mortgage payment last month, and I have a little left over. Things are picking up but it's still really tight. I had to have emergency dental surgery (blessed wisdom teeth) too... There is a point that you reach when you're desperate that you still feel the shame of begging, but the need overwhelms it.

    I'll just leave this here: 17S6drtGpJXer6qA5V6XhP3snasGWANBjc

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