Mooch has been living out of his car since the autumn of 2010. He has a full-time security job and a gym membership at a 24 hour fitness club. He uses public Wi-fi to work on client’s projects and he says he’s never “…been happier or more successful…” in his life. Mooch is homeless.
Mooch, obviously, is not his real name. Neither is it a derogatory term placed on him by society. It is a street moniker he chose himself. Some people say that Mooch is homeless by choice. That’s a statement that upsets him because he feels it labels his situation. When he couldn’t pay his rent at his apartment in California, Mooch moved in with his dad. Originally, the agreement was that Mooch would live with his father rent-free. Mooch would just have to buy his own groceries.
Thirty days after moving in, his dad asked for rent. Mooch couldn’t pay, so he had to leave. With nowhere to go and no money, he made a decision to head to Los Angeles and live out of his car. His new website and branding business could be done from anywhere that Mooch could access the internet, so he decided to pursue the task of growing his company.
Dropping by FedEx to use their wi-fi for over a year, all of the FedEx employees have come to know Mooch and the kind of person he is. They know everything about him — except for the fact he is homeless. With a laptop and smart phone, Mooch is constantly on one or the other. Researching new client opportunities, blogging and following up on emails and tweets, Mooch uses a USB internet card which serves as his backup.
Mooch says his situation has allowed him to learn what homelessness is really about. The biggest thing Mooch has learned is how many levels homelessness actually has. It’s something he’s learned from experience, there’s no class to learn it in. Mooch has met homeless people sleeping on the streets, in tents, vehicles and even tree houses. Many have jobs, businesses, laptops and cellphones. Mooch has found that homelessness is growing but the internet is a great tool to help the homeless get their goals online and prepare for their future.
During Mooch’s journey through the paths of homelessness, his business has grown 300 percent. He has clients in 4 countries spread across 3 continents. Last year he started the Free Blogs for Homeless Worldwide to show people who doubt, and those who simply aren’t educated, that the homeless are online, are passionate about life and are about more than just their circumstance.
Mooch says he has learned and grown in many ways. Still pursuing his dreams, Mooch knows they are real. They just haven’t come to fruition yet.
Mooch is fortunate. He has found a supportive group of people who believe in him and what he is trying to accomplish. Other homeless people aren’t as lucky. Today’s world is turning towards the digital, increasingly, every day. Even job searches are going online with many potential employers requiring an electronic application being filed. Assistance and understanding from local libraries ranges from for substantial to non-existent. A homeless person who is fortunate enough to have a laptop can still struggle to find wi-fi.
Cell phones are provided under a government social program, but they’re limited to the number of minutes available each month and they do not have internet access. Progress is being made and eventually many more people may be like Mooch, running a successful company from the backseat of his car.
The homeless are slowly moving into technology and online. It can be a good thing to know.
By Jerry Nelson