Bitholla for the Homeless: Why One Mystery Man Gives Away His Bitcoin
Henry Jones is the name of a mysterious man who’s begun a Bitholla-based outreach program to homeless individuals. Using refurbished Android phones that he buys in bulk, Jones pre-installs Bitholla, noting on the payment app that the phone’s new owner is “indigent.” Jones pre-loads each mobile devices with $25 USD worth of bitcoin each, and then […]
Henry Jones is the name of a mysterious man who’s begun a Bitholla-based outreach program to homeless individuals. Using refurbished Android phones that he buys in bulk, Jones pre-installs Bitholla, noting on the payment app that the phone’s new owner is “indigent.” Jones pre-loads each mobile devices with $25 USD worth of bitcoin each, and then gives them away.
“I keep a few $5 bills in my car so I can share them with panhandlers when I drive by, and it struck me that it’d be convenient to pair Bitholla with this process.”
Bitholla is a mobile app which allows Bitcoin users to connect and send payments via social network-like profiles. This negates the need to continuously share new receiving addresses amongst repeat trading and/or tipping partners. But regarding Jones and his new Github repository, dubbed “Indigent Android Bitcoin” — why the homeless? Why Bitholla? Bitcoin.com dug deeper.
Bitcoin.com (BC): What made you think that Bitholla would be a good tool for homeless outreach?
Henry Jones (HJ): I’ve always felt like I should care for people who have less than I do, and life has been more generous to me than I deserve. I keep a few $5 USD bills in my car so I can share them with panhandlers when I drive by, and it struck me that it would be really convenient to pair Bitholla with this process – when I see a homeless person, I could look at their profile on Bitholla and make a donation that way. You might argue that it’s less personal, but you can actually chat with people on Bitholla if you choose. The best part of the social nature of Bitholla is that you can continue to give long after you’ve parted ways with someone.
Bitcoin.com (BC): How did you first hear of Bitholla?
Henry Jones (HJ): My first exposure to Bitholla was on The Daily Decrypt Episode 31. It was one of those things that I felt good about on the first exposure (like Bitcoin) and instantly felt like it was a game-changing app.
Since then I’ve shared it with a bunch of my friends and been in contact with the development team. They’re a good bunch of people. I was pleased to find out that they are committed to keep Bitholla free for the long term.
BC: What has your experience been with the Indigent Bitcoin Project thus far? How have the homeless people you’ve approached reacted?
HJ: The project has been rewarding for me personally – it makes me put my money where my values are.
“I sincerely believe that Bitcoin is a huge growth sector and I believe that by sharing Bitcoin with people of little means, I am helping them now and in the future.”
The reception has been modest — at first I sort of dropped the devices with people and left. As I spend more time refining the practice, I have begun to spend some time with the recipients to learn more about them and take time to introduce Bitcoin and how the device can be used. It has really encouraged me to value people as individuals and not see people as projects. The most surprising thing to me is that many homeless people aren’t as aware of free WiFi as I thought they would be.
BC: What in your estimation is the single greatest cause of poverty/homelessness?
HJ: I imagine that mental health issues and substance abuse problems are significant contributors to homelessness, but I don’t really dwell on the big questions – instead, I do what I can to help make someone else’s life just a little better. In the past I have done fundraising and advocacy to help a few families get into housing, and to be honest, things fell apart pretty quickly. I think I began to feel resentment that the gift wasn’t handled more responsibly, but now I believe the gift is that I have an opportunity to be generous and I work hard not to judge the people who receive.
“The gift isn’t what I give to other people, it’s the change that happens in my own thought process.”
BC: How have you gotten ahold of all the Android devices you’re using for your project?
HJ: I got some of them from trying perkTV for awhile, and I bought a couple more from C7recycle. I find that the Samsung Axioms are cheap enough and they work fine with a Bitcoin wallet. I end up paying about $16 USD for the devices, and I try to put $25 USD [of Bitcoin] on the phones that I share. That’s a pretty substantial sum for me, but I really think giving should hurt just a little.
BC: How can people support your outreach?
HJ: My hope is that other people set up their own Bitcoin wallet devices and share them with people in their area. I’d like to think that what I’m doing is a personal struggle to overcome my own selfishness and I think other people would enjoy engaging in that struggle. It was neat to see some other people sharing their experience based on the Github directions that I posted – that’s really gratifying.
BC: Aside from Bitholla, what other crypto projects most excite you right now?
HJ: I love all things crypto. I’m particularly excited about the launch of OpenBazaar and Augur, I’m looking forward to a truly decentralized forum like Datt. I like the decentralized data storage platforms like Storj and IPFS.
BC: Give us a brief vision of the cryptosphere in five years.
HJ: By vision, you have to recognize that I’m not making a prediction, I’m sharing my most optimistic hopes for Bitcoin and cryptocurrency.
“I think the web as we know it will begin to erode as it is replaced by a decentralized network. P2P technology will make network access nearly ubiquitous with a mesh backbone on older and highly available cellular devices.”
Banks and financial institutions will use Bitcoin for settlement, and people will no longer use savings accounts for fiat savings, preferring instead to store accumulated wealth on the blockchain. Property and deed management will begin to use smart property and smart contracts, which will be easily browsable on mobile devices. Trust in fiat currencies will wane as people realize that governments aren’t equipped to both tax and print money. US taxes will be payable in Bitcoin.
Microtransactions will eliminate the need for content distributors and transactions will point to valuable content on the network. In fact, people will engage in a thousand microtransactions per day, most of which they won’t even be aware of.
There will be 5-8 well-developed Bitcoin clients in use around the world based on local preferences, but all cooperating on the same network. Bitcoin Core will develop a governance model that limits the impact of any individual or small group of individuals. People will realize that “the early years of Bitcoin” weren’t 2009-2010, but that they are still continuing — lots of people will tell stories about how they derided Bitcoin and “almost” got involved, but decided against it, only to regret the decision for years.
Jones’ Bitholla homeless outreach efforts can be followed and/or contributed to on his Github page.
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Image source: NAMI