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News Link • Bitcoin

Homeless, Unemployed, and Surviving on Bitcoins

• www.wired.com
Jesse Angle is homeless, living on the streets of Pensacola, Florida. Sometimes he spends the night at a local church. Other nights, he sleeps behind a building in the heart of the city, underneath a carport that protects him from the rain.

Each morning, he wakes up, grabs some food, and makes his way to Martin Luther King Plaza, a downtown park built where the trolley tracks used to run. He likes this park because his friends hang out there too, and it’s a good place to pick up some spending money. But he doesn’t panhandle. He uses the internet.

The park offers free wireless access, and with his laptop, Angle watches YouTube videos in exchange for bitcoins, the world’s most popular digital currency.

‘Bitcoin beats the shit 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.’

— Jason King

For every video he watches, Angle gets 0.00004 bitcoins, or about half a cent, thanks to a service, called BitcoinGet, that shamelessly drives artificial traffic to certain online clips. He can watch up to 12 videos a day, which gets him to about six cents.* And he can beef up this daily take with Bitcoin Tapper, a mobile app that doles out about 0.000133 bitcoins a day — a couple of pennies — if he just taps on a digital icon over and over again. Like the YouTube service, this app isn’t exactly the height of internet sophistication — it seeks to capture your attention so it can show you ads — but for Angle, it’s a good way to keep himself fed.

Angle, 42, is on food stamps, but that never quite gets him through the month. The internet provides the extra money he needs to buy a meal each and every day. Since setting up a bitcoin wallet about three or four months ago, he has earned somewhere between four or five bitcoins — about $500 to $630 today — through YouTube videos, Bitcoin Tapper, and the occasional donation. And when he does odd jobs for people around Pensacola — here in the physical world — he still gets paid in bitcoin, just because it’s easier and safer. He doesn’t have to worry as much about getting robbed.

Jesse Angle isn’t your average homeless person. But he shows that bitcoin is changing the world in more ways than you might imagine. Some believe it could provide a major boost to the country’s 640,000 homeless, not only in providing extra pocket change for those on the street, but by helping urban homeless shelters more quickly secure donations for hot meals, beds, and blankets.

Angle learned about bitcoin through Sean’s Outpost, a Pensacola charity that has raised about $32,000 through a program that solicits donations in bitcoins rather than American dollars. So far, it has received donations from 25 different countries, and this has bought almost 16,000 meals for Pensacola homeless.

“Bitcoin beats the shit out of regular money,” says Jason King, the founder of Sean’s Outpost. “We’ve resonated so well with people because it’s direct action. There’s no chaff between donation and helping people.” That could change, as regulators in the U.S. put the clamps on the use of bitcoin. But for now, in the world of the homeless, it reduces chaff in more ways than one.

 

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