Leo has an interesting mixture of credentials. A graduate of the University of Illinois and a former case manager for New York City's Department of Health, he is a member of the Board of Directors for the Jersey City Homeless Coalition, and a volunteer and peer educator with the Mental Health Association of New Jersey.
There was also the time when substance abuse ruled his life, which has been followed by more than 6 years of sobriety. Amazingly, he was homeless for four of those years and managed to remain sober while constantly searching for a place to sleep and shower among a network of friends and shelters.
A case manager at a facility in Jersey City referred him to the United Way of Hudson County's Collaborative Solutions Program, which provides housing and supportive services for the chronically homeless.
“I appreciate my apartment so much, it's clean and comfortable” said Leo, 59. “I take pride in where I live and always pay my rent a week early. Housing adds stability”.
Leo is now an advocate for the homeless, volunteering with several organizations and giving speeches. At the Mental Health Association of New Jersey, he assists clients in the Bridgeway program by referring them to social services and helping them through applications for assistance.
“I'm very grateful to the United Way for all they've done for me,” he said. “Many people take housing for granted by a lot of people are just one paycheck away from being homeless. It's important to give people a second chance.”