C++ and cardboard signs
December 15, 2016
News editor Alex Wong and staff writer Javin Pombra recently interviewed Jeff or Robert Pineda — he refers to himself as both. While Pineda’s words are occasionally nonsensical, he offers a unique, optimistic perspective on the issue of homelessness.
Like many of Silicon Valley’s residents, Jeff or Robert Pineda holds a career which centers around technology. Pineda has been trying to learn C++ and Java since he moved to the city in 2007, learning what he calls “pretty big heavyweights” of programming in attempt to create the next Microsoft or just to become a software engineer. Yet unlike most programmers in the Valley, Pineda has been homeless for almost a decade.
“Being homeless doesn’t mean you gotta be distraught or depressed because it ain’t easy,” Pineda said. “But for me, I [kept] homelessness a positive experience. It is a positive experience; you gotta believe it. Waking up every day without a meal, you gotta chase the meal.”
Keeping his files on portable drives, he spends each day organizing what he calls his “business data,” studying computer science and reading at the Mountain View public library. To learn C++ and Java, Pineda took programs at different community colleges and also plans to take online courses to further his education.
“I read a book everyday,” Pineda said. “I go the library, do some computers, spend time organizing all my business data… and keep aware of my software. I put in about three to six hours of studying on a computer and do other things too, personal stuff.”
Yet Pineda didn’t always want to get into tech. Throughout the 1990s, a few years after high school and after spending time in a mixed-trades school, Pineda worked in construction in Pleasanton. He spent over a decade in the trade and reflects on the time period positively.
“It was an awesome experience,” Pineda said. “If you can do [construction], you can do anything. You hook up the house and start putting things together, one after another, that’s what I did, one thing after another. If you can turn the wrenches, you can do it all. You do a lot of stuff in construction, [which] gives you enough information pretty much about yourself.”
“I went to Hawaii, spent some time there, went to Southern California, spent some time there…[got] relaxed,” Pineda said. “It was a mood change, [and] when I traveled I left it all behind. That’s the soldier you got to be. You got to walk away from it, and I made that choice. If you do that, you’ll find who you are.”
You just try to make the best of your life and if it works out, it works out.
— Jeff or Robert Pineda
Pineda first began to look toward tech during that seven-year-long vacation when he read a series of books on technology.
“I just planted a seed,” Pineda said. “I said, ‘I’m going to read these books, I’ll figure it out, and see how far it is.’ It took me a little while when I was thinking about it. Read another book, read another book, to get into it. I think it slowly just developed a picture by itself.”
Long preceding his introspective journey, Pineda’s adventurous spirit developed during his childhood: one of his fondest memories is jumping off roofs when he was young.
“You ever jumped off a roof?” Pineda said. “Well we did. We were 3 or 4 years old. We climbed to top of the roof, to the second roof of the apartment, and bounced down onto a mattress. We were just perfect, ya know?”
Today, Pineda continues to view his situation in positive light. While he agrees being homeless is no gift, he still makes the most of it.
“Anybody who thinks they want to be a homeless in life is wrong,” Pineda said. But you just try to make the best of your life and if it works out, it works out.”