After ten years of being homeless, he decided it was time to settle down. Although he now travels around the country to live with his children, Leroy stays faithful to the homeless community in Knoxville, Tennessee.
When asked for his personal piece of advice, Leroy, 71, said “Even if you’re stuck in a situation that you can’t get out of, if you believe in your heart, He will pull you out.”
Leroy has been a Christian for fifteen years or so, after one specific frightful night. While staying in someone’s home, a fire began to erupt in the kitchen. After failing to put it out, Leroy prayed to himself “if Hell is this hot, I can’t do it.” To this day, he prays on his knees each morning and night, thanking God.
Leroy has fourteen kids spread around Tennessee, California, Florida, and Delaware. Although he travels to stay with all of them, he somehow always returns to his home city, Knoxville. Whenever he is in the area, he volunteers at Love Kitchen and local churches, using his experiences and faith to encourage other homeless people.
“Being homeless, you shift yourself from place to place. Often, people are addicted to drugs and alcohol because they have given up. They think life is not worth it, God doesn’t love them.” This is why Leroy dedicates his time spreading God’s message throughout the city, to tell others his story and spread encouragement.
Like many others, Leroy used to have drinking habits. He would make his own moonshine, continuing to make and drink it until one day, he began to get sick. Throwing up, he begged God to “take the taste out” of his mouth. The next day, as he lifted more alcohol to his lips, he felt the sudden urge to pour the entire bottle out, so he did. He hasn’t had a drop since.
Leroy has dozens of fascinating and scary stories from living on the streets.
According to him, the most terrifying moment was in 1972, when he got lost in the Everglades. By the time he realized how lost he had become, it was dark with nothing around but a small empty fruit stand. Barely able to see his hands in front of his face, Leroy managed to make it to the stand for the night. Looking around, he noticed two pairs of glowing eyes from about 30 feet away. He was being watched by two panthers. Luckily, they didn’t come close enough to hurt him, only scare him. In the morning, he was arrested by state troopers for endangering his own life. After two days in jail, the state department got him a ticket to Orlando, Florida.
Leroy is currently waiting to begin living in his own apartment, with the help of local church, Redeemer. As much as he loves living with his kids, he says he wishes to have a home of his own. He also claims that if he ever gets enough money, he would buy a house and let other homeless people live there, as long as he trusted them.
Leroy and I met each other at Lost Sheep Ministry, a local organization that feeds the Knoxville homeless community each Wednesday. He has become a kind friend to me, someone who always smiles and gives me a hug. His story is the first of many volunteers and homeless people from Lost Sheep.