Homeless computer wiz builds Web site FWD

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Wed, 17 Jun 1998 23:46:46 -0700 (PDT)


http://www.sjmercury.com/business/tech/docs/073223.htm
FWD  San Jose [CA] Mercury News - Tuesday, June 16, 1998

     HOMELESS COMPUTER WIZ BUILDS WEB SITE
     By Vanessa Arrington - Riverside Press-Enterprise

RIVERSIDE, Calif. - Harold E. Roosa III is technologically savvy. He knows
his way around the Internet and has launched a business designing World
Wide Web pages.

What makes Roosa unique is that he also is homeless.

Clean-shaven, articulate and soft-spoken, the 35-year-old Roosa is far from
the homeless stereotype. He said he does not drink or do drugs, and he is
unwaveringly focused on getting back into ``regular'' society.

``I'm very persistent,'' Roosa said. ``I don't give up.''

When he is not out searching for work at a restaurant or convenience store,
Roosa can be found in a public computer cluster with his eyes glued to the
computer screen. His favorite spots are the University of California,
Riverside's Tomas Rivera Library and the UCR-California Museum of
Photography, which offers free admission on Wednesdays.

While on the computer, Roosa updates his own Web pages - which advertise
his business - and designs pages for his customers, of which there are two
so far. He is starting up a new Web site for people to submit and view
personal advertisements. Roosa's main Web site can be accessed at:
http://members.wbs.net/homepages/r/o/o/roosaiiiinc.html.

Roosa said he became homeless in October, when his landlord at a Riverside
apartment unexpectedly raised the rent from $280 to $380 a month, he said.

He lived in the Salvation Army's Circle of Hope shelter in Corona for the
maximum 30 days, then slept in the National Guard Armory when it was open.
Now, home is a nook at the Riverside Municipal Museum.

Since he has been homeless, Roosa has continued to work at a number of
temporary jobs.

``For anybody to say you can't work while you're homeless, they're wrong,''
Roosa said. ``You can do it. I've done it. I even slept right there at my
workplace's doorstep.''

The hard part is getting the job, as most potential employers are leery of
hiring homeless people, he said.

But Roosa is confident that his job-searching efforts, as well as his
entrepreneurial ones, will pay off. Eventually. He said hard work is the
key to making money and getting off the streets. The city cannot do that
for him, he said.

``It falls back on the homeless,'' Roosa said. ``They have to become more
effective in cleaning themselves up. If they want a job, they'll find it.
But if they're sitting around waiting for something to come to them on a
silver platter, they ain't gonna get it.''

Roosa practices what he preaches. He carries around an electric razor in
his backpack so he can shave at any time. And he possesses a solid work
ethic, especially when he is on a computer.

``On Wednesday he usually comes in by 11 a.m. and is here until 8 p.m.,''
said Jennifer Christensen, manager of the store at the photography museum.
``He'll get up and take a cigarette break, but other than that he's here
all day.''

That is fine with Jonathan Green, the museum director. The point of the
Internet Gallery, created in 1993, is to provide access to a wide spectrum
of people. So as long as others are not waiting, Roosa can work all day,
Green said.

``He does act like this is his office,'' Christensen said. ``He always says
'I have work to do.' Then he just types madly.''

A native of Massachusetts who graduated from high school in Kansas and has
lived all over the South, Roosa came to Riverside in 1994 from Florida to
escape what he described as the prejudice and narrow-mindedness of that
region.

``I don't think there's as much discrimination against the homeless in
Riverside as some other places,'' Roosa said. ``Of course, there are some
nasty, belligerent people who are even scared of the homeless. Their
perception of the homeless is that they are no-good, stinking bums.

``But that's the perception of most people, wherever you go. It doesn't
make a difference if it's this city or any other city.''

So Roosa is concentrating his energy on becoming employed and escaping his
homeless status.

``There's nothing to say I can't get back off the streets,'' Roosa said.
``One of these days I will find a job.''

END FORWARD

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