Single fathers with children 18 and younger live on city streets, poor and homeless. They stay in places not meant for habitation; vacant buildings, broken down cars, any dry, warm corner they can find. As an educational program consultant with the SRO Corp. of America (located on skid row) some time back, I found that homeless single fathers with children are a considered a unique “family unit.”
The recent county homeless number is 53,195, only 3 percent less than last year. Apparently, these fathers are initially counted among general homeless numbers until their data is isolated, but even then their actual numbers can be undetermined and not always readily available, I found.
Megan Katerjian, executive director of Pasadena-based Door of Hope, adds, “Family homelessness decreased by just 1 percent in Door of Hope communities (which includes homeless fathers with children in Pasadena), increased by 3 percent in the San Gabriel Valley and 5 percent in the San Fernando Valley.” Door of Hope, which was started in 1985, equips families and children experiencing homelessness with tools to rebuild their lives. Unlike most homeless service organizations where families are separated, Door of Hope’s program keeps the family unit together as they work toward their end goal of achieving permanent housing.
Lack of shelter systems for these father and child “family units” has prevented admittance to the majority of temporary shelters and permanent housing. Door of Hope has been an exception.
Consider Gary Baney and his two small children, for example. Baney was the first father to graduate from their homeless single fathers with children program. With their assistance and that of the Veterans Administration, Baney acquired subsidized affordable housing. He became a single father when his wife left him. He became a homeless father living on Pasadena streets when he lost his job at a McDonald’s. “Nobody wanted to give to a father and his kids — you couldn’t find a place for us,” Baney said.
His luck changed when a woman saw him and his children on the street and mercifully gave him $400 cash to get a motel, according to an article in the Pasadena Star-News.
Since then, 2015, “Coordinated entry” has replaced some conventional shelter rules for single fathers with children in Los Angeles County, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reported.
LA Family Housing’s Sidney M. Imas Transitional Living Center (TLC) provides temporary housing to men and their children: “There is no dormitory-style living at TLC. Each unit is like a studio, many with kitchens, and the family staying in it is given a key that allows members to come and go as they please,” stated Kris Freed, associate vice president of programs at LA Family Housing.
Union Station Homeless Services has housing and supportive services that accept these fathers, but none are presently housed. Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD), like other school districts, helps these fathers once they have been identified. Union Station reported more shelters and permanent housing are going to be available for these fathers soon.
The Great Recession of 2008 has been triggering socio-economic shifts, due to foreclosures, low wages, unemployment and addictions, destabilizing the middle and poorer classes. The homeless, including families, single mothers and single fathers with children have not been recovering fast enough. Additionally, mothers going to jail or abandoning their children has enlarged the problem. n