The National Center on Family Homelessness reports that one in every 30 children is homeless in the United States, so about 2.5 million children are living without a permanent address or a place to go home after school.
The U.S. Census Bureau reports that single fatherhood becomes more common, and 16.1% of single-parent households are headed by fathers, so there is a 12.5% increase from 2007.
Yet, a 2007 study published by the National Council on Family Relations reports that “focusing on this population of men is especially pertinent in relation to concerns about responsible fathering.”
Namely, recent research on responsible fathering has pointed out the need to examine contextual influences on parenting, as fathers at the margins, like homeless fathers, may face unique challenges to responsible parenting.
John Cantu of Pontiac, Michigan, a father of five who has found himself homeless, claims he cannot find a shelter willing to accept men with children.
After his wife left him with their five children, he also lost his job as a car polisher, because he couldn’t find a babysitter, and three of his five children are not yet school age.
At this point, he found that while single mothers represent the majority of primary parents in homeless families, fathers are often an ignored demographic when it comes to single parenthood.
He said that unfortunately, in southeast Michigan, there are not many shelters for men with children.
“I never thought this would happen to myself… but what bothers me the most is that ( his children) have to endure it as well. And luckily, they’re small enough they probably won’t remember it.”
In such a situation, he looks for temporary sleeping accommodations where he can find them. They have slept inside his van for several nights, and some people sometimes donate money, so they can sleep in a motel room.
Fortunately, he qualifies for childcare assistance from the Michigan Department of Human Services, but he has no help in finding a home for his children and the cold weather is almost there.
And until he finds a stable place of employment, the rain will continue pouring. He explains:
“I’m a professional polisher with the auto body industry -- a finisher. After a car comes out of the paint booth, I’m the last one to touch it so I have to wet, sand, compound, polish, find any imperfections and fix it.”
Despite being a single father, Cantu is increasingly part of a new face of homelessness, that consists of seniors and families with too many expenses and not enough opportunities to pay them off.
Cantu says two things keep him staying strong: his faith in God and hope that his kids won’t remember it.
This amazing story of the caring father touched a lot of people, and after it was aired on FOX 2 News and was shared thousands of times on Facebook, Cantu was offered help by numerous people.
“I was very shocked, it humbled myself and I literally started crying -- seeing the outreach of people that are willing to help.”
He started getting calls and messages from people who want to help, and the FOX 2 Problem Solvers was also inundated with calls and emails from all over metro Detroit and the U.S.
There have also been donations and viewers have even offered up their homes to the Cantu family.
Joseph added that the outreach they received was phenomenal. He is on a waiting list for one of the few shelters in southeast Michigan that accepts men and children together, and after it is done, he hopes they can create a plan for other men with children in the same or similar situation as him.
He also wanted to express his heartfelt appreciation:
“I want to say thank you to all the supporters, all the people who reached out. Thank you from the bottom of my heart and my kids. God bless you guys.”