Until the day he passed away, Gustavo “Gus” Barreiro carried his green card in his wallet. He didn’t have to – having immigrated to the United States 55 years ago and becoming a citizen not long after. He wanted to carry his green card, he was proud to show it off to friends and colleagues. It represented his journey to the United States from Cuba, the journey that so many in South Florida have taken. Gus’ journey, however, was not the cliched rags to riches story. It wasn’t even about carving out a good life for himself and his family, although he did that for himself.
More than material enrichment, Gus’ story was about personal fulfillment and helping others. His dedication to giving to those who were less fortunate than him started while at college on a football scholarship. Gus founded the Wisconsin Living Learning Center, a group youth home for adjudicated delinquent boys, that served as a diversionary program from the criminal justice system. With a grant he was awarded from the Department of Juvenile Justice, Gus remained in Wisconsin after graduation to continue operating the program – which became a model for the state – for nine years.
Upon his return to Miami, Gus ran for the Florida House of Representatives, ultimately serving in the Florida legislature from 1998 to 2006 representing the 107th district. During his legislative tenure, he chaired the special committee on the death of Omar Paisley and Martin Lee Anderson, both young boys who tragically died in state custody and boot camp programs.
Ever the child advocate, Gus joined The Children’s Trust in 2015 as public policy and community engagement liaison. His time at The Trust, and throughout his entire life, is littered with well-known and private stories of his giving spirit and willingness to do everything he could to improve the lives of his fellow man, with a particular interest in children.
In 2006, Gus received a Champions for Children award for public policy from The Children’s Trust, and the Ira Lipman Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency for his dedication and hard work in juvenile justice.
Among the litany of boards and committee on which he served, Gus was particularly proud of being the chairman of Miami-Dade Community Based Care Alliance Board, a watchdog for kids in Foster Care. He was also a Guardian ad Litem, a member of the advisory council for MagicWaste Youth Foundation, and was recently appointed to the Secure Our Future Advisory Committee of Miami-Dade County Public Schools.
Gus is survived by his daughters, Natalie and Nicole, a granddaughter, his parents, and brother, Bruno. He will be missed by all those whose lives he touched, The Children’s Trust and by everyone in South Florida who he dedicated his life to helping.
In lieu of flowers, Gustavo Barreiro’s family along with The Children’s Trust has designated a memorial fund in his name at Voices For Children. Gus was a dedicated advocate and champion for children who had a deep passion for helping and supporting kids. The fund at Voices For Children will support the needs of youth in foster care or aging out of the system. You can make your contributions to Voices For Children in support of the Gus Barreiro’s Fund by check or online.
Checks can be sent to:
Voices For Children Foundation
Attention: Gus Barreiro’s Fund
601 NW First Court
Miami, FL 33136
Donations can be made online to Voices For Children Foundation in honor of Gus Barreiro at:
Gus Barreiro, ex-lawmaker and advocate for vulnerable children, has died - Miami Herald, August 16, 2019
Gus Barreiro, Hero for Dozier, Powerful Voice for Juvenile Justice, Has Died - Sunshine State News, August 18, 2019