This YouTube vlogger is redefining what it means to be homeless

Could you survive without a house or job? And could you do it on the mean streets of Moscow?

That’s the question that 43-year-old Eugene Yakut is asking by showing the world a side of Russia’s capital city that most have never seen. The 43-year-old is one of Moscow’s estimated 50,000 homeless denizens and for the past five years, he’s been using his street smarts to survive in the densely populated city of 12 million. Now, he’s revealing how he does it with a series of YouTube videos, in which he describes himself as a “bum blogger.”

Всем привет! Сегодня опубликовали мое первое в жизни интервью где я ответил на все вопросы! 😊 #женяякут #бомж #блоггер #москвабездомная #москва #интервью #блог #видео

A photo posted by Женя Якут (бомж блоггер) (@moscowvoodoo) on

Yakut has posted eight videos over the past month. His most revealing video takes viewers into his makeshift home—a heat pipeline below a manhole cover, which is littered with his few belongings. He shows viewers his battery-powered radio (the battery happens to be dead when he tries turning it on), his collection of books, and how he goes to sleep at night.

Yakut tells Russian news outlet NVPress that it’s not in his character to beg. Instead, he makes most of his meager income by salvaging books from the trash to sell to a used book store. Each one earns him a minimum of 20 cents, and the above video shows him making $1.20 from a sale. 

He also has strokes of good luck here and there. Recently, for instance, he found a bicycle in the trash and sold it for 300 rubles, or approximately $5.50.

One video shows how Yakut maintains his hygiene by bathing in Avia Park Mall, the largest mall in Europe. The handicapped bathroom stalls include a sink and mirror, so he has all the privacy he needs to wash and shave. He says it’s important to remain clean-cut for the sake of maintaining access to public spaces.

Eventually, Yakut hopes to make enough money from ads shown on his videos to get himself off the street. He seems well on his way to doing so—now that 24,000 people have subscribed to his channel in one month, each video has several tens of thousands of views and his most-watched video has more than 250,000. 

“Every subscriber and every click on an ad help me get closer to a normal life,” he wrote on his VKontakte page.

Yakut says he was formerly a military veteran and electrician. He left behind a family to move to Moscow (his explanation is vague, with him just saying he left because of his “drunkeness” and “betrayal”), and he keeps in touch with his family over the phone. 

In addition to his growing YouTube presence, Yakut is also active on Instagram and Russia’s most popular social network, VKontakte. It raises some questions about how a homeless man is able to have such a prominent Internet presence. His videos are shot by a friend named Andrei Voodoo (that surname is a transliteration of the Russian word for “wood”), but it’s unclear how they know each other or how exactly they create and upload these videos.

But until Yakut can bring himself out of homelessness by creating more videos and selling more books, he’ll likely continue roaming the streets of Moscow, figuring out what his next steps are. 

H/T The Guardian | Photo via Zhenya_Yakut/Instagram

Dylan Love

Dylan Love

Dylan Love is an editorial consultant and journalist whose reporting interests include emergent technology, digital media, and Russian language and culture. He is a former staff writer for the Daily Dot, and his work has been published by Business Insider, International Business Times, Men's Journal, and the Next Web.