Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Southlake minister goes off-the-grid Downtown to raise awareness about DFW homelessness
Have you seen Leon? Clue: He's not the one in the striped shirt, beanie, and glasses.
DALLAS In less than one week, Southlake resident Leon Reyes will spend his last night in his own home. He won't return for 30 days.
On Nov. 1, Reyes, a youth pastor and worship leader, will begin his 30-day journey living homeless in Downtown Dallas. During that time, he will have no contact with his wife and two-year-old son and will be on a leave of absence from his job. He will be dropped off in Dallas with an empty backpack and the clothes on his back - he will have no money and no identification.
"In this area there's not a lot of awareness of what's going on in other cities, and I wanted to raise awareness. I also want to show other cities who think Southlake is only about the school district, the football team and ourselves that we're different," Reyes said. "We want to help, but we sometimes don't know where to help. I also enjoy helping people, and I hope to better understand people of all walks of life and the challenges they face."
Within the 30 days, Reyes hopes to find a job, a residence and try and help others in the Downtown Dallas homeless community do the same.
"I felt that I need to do this," Reyes said. "Textbooks only teach you so much, but walking in others' shoes offers a world of opportunity."
Reyes said he has wanted to do the 30-day journey for years, but he noticed a real opportunity about two months ago. He said he saw a window of time and knew he had to take it. Reyes has tried preparing his body for what's to come.
"I've been trying to shorten my meals and shrink my stomach," Reyes said. "I've also been trying to figure out my body and praying."
The plan for Nov. 1 is to have an early breakfast with friends and family in Dallas. Around noon that day he will leave them behind and head into downtown.
"I've been trying to figure out a detailed plan, but that's causing my nerves to jitter," Reyes said. "We want people from Southlake to come and get involved, so we've put a 'Where's Waldo?' twist on it."
His wife, Lauren Reyes, will be keeping up with a website and blog. She will update her thoughts throughout the month. Lauren Reyes is encouraging people to go look for her husband and take a picture with him and post to Twitter or Facebook so she can keep up with him for the month through everyone else's eyes.
"I'm going into this with a very good spirit, and if it's too hard I will stop it. This is a learning experience, but I don't want to put myself in mortal danger. I agreed with my wife that if I feel like my life is in danger, I will stop," Reyes said. "This journey is not about completing it; it's about learning something from it. I've been trying for four years to talk my wife into letting me do this and finally she said OK. She said if it wasn't for my past, she wouldn't be on board."
Reyes is the middle of seven children. His father is ex-military and would go on "rants" when he drank. His family was very poor and even lived in a homeless shelter for a year. For two years, Reyes and his siblings lived in foster care. He said they knew to lie about their injuries because they knew what would happen, but one day his brother told an adult that his dad hit him, which resulted in foster care.
"Living in women's shelters was the norm. My dad would hit and rant when he was drunk. It was non stop," Reyes said. "I took a different turn with my life and got involved with the ministry. I started applying everything I went through in a positive way. Now, I have weekly talk with parents and thank them for the opportunity that they tried to give me. I'm able to go off the positive and live off the positives."
Pegasus News Content partner - Star Local News
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