This is Leo’s story.
Leonardo Villanueva has a passion for the struggles of the homeless. As a USF college student, he often purchased a burger to share with homeless men on Fowler Avenue. Once, he invited a homeless man to a restaurant with him, and they were turned away. He fought for his guest’s place at the table as he had seen his dad do on so many occasions when he was a kid.
Above all, Leo didn’t want to be an apathetic Christian. He felt you can only have true compassion and understanding of someone’s struggles if you live it yourself. So in 2009, Leo was dropped off in downtown Tampa with the clothes on his back, his ID, a Bible and a sleeping bag. He spent three days as a homeless man. He experienced first-hand what it feels like when your entire day is focused on where to get a meal, where you’re allowed to use a bathroom or get a drink of water, where to find a safe place to sleep and where to get a day job so you might be able to afford shelter for a night.
A priest who gently opened the doors to Sacred Heart Church, kindly saying, “Time to wake up,”as Leo slept on the top step. A parishioner who invited him to attend mass at the church where he slept. A man who treated him to breakfast at First Watch. Bubba, another homeless man, who recognized Leonardo was new to the streets, offered advice to keep him safe. Volunteers at Trinity Cafe who treated Leo, and all the homeless guests, with
Leo’s temporary homeless community had stories to share. There was a young man who slept in his business suit in a shelter every night, and then boarded a bus at dawn to search for a job. Many shared the frustration of being shut out of employment because they didn’t have an address or phone number. Leo documented his experiences on YouTube as “Leo the Homeless Man.”
Leo is a GMA Dove Award-winning Christian musician and minister. His experience as a homeless man inspired a song, “Hope Is Coming to You.” He also wrote a special song for the volunteers of Trinity Cafe entitled, “The One Who Cares.”
There is no room for apathy. God can use one person to make a difference. That person can be me or that person can be you.