“I always wanted my boys. Nathan, Jr., and Isaiah needing me caused me to change my life.” Nathan spoke openly to me about his ordeal to gain custody of his two sons, his efforts to bring them to a safe place, and how that path led them to Cornerstone Community Outreach (CCO).
Not so long ago Nathan was living in a small apartment with a roommate. He received a call from a family member telling him he needed to come and get his boys. They had been living with their mother and their situation with her had rapidly deteriorated. He was told if he didn’t come immediately and take them they would go into protective custody. He felt that this was an opportunity to be a full-time father to his children. He went to get them.
“When I got to the apartment my kids were wild, they looked wild. I knew if I was going to take care of them that my life would change. I was happy, nervous, and scared. I knew I wanted them.”
“They were as excited as I was. Hearing them call me Dad really made me step up to the plate. That was my title, “Dad.” Everyone wants a title, it makes you who you are. I wanted to be their dad and that’s who I am. It’s not glamorous. You have to make sacrifices with a title like that. You have to earn it.”
“I didn’t meet my own father until I was 16. I was star-struck but he wasn’t really a dad. He was someone I wanted to see but not someone I wanted to be.”
Nathan and his sons stayed with his roommate for a while and then they found themselves homeless. He needed a place to get on his feet, not only for himself but for his sons, as well. Fathers find it particularly difficult to get shelter for themselves and their children. Most shelters are designed for single adults or women with children. But there’s a growing need for dads to find a place to be the fathers they want to be.
“I had never been homeless before. I went to the Department of Human Services office and told them that I wanted to raise my boys and we needed shelter. They said, “Have you ever been to Cornerstone?” I was skeptical at first. My boys had lived in some rough places with their mother but they had never been in a shelter. I was surprised, it’s a nice environment. Of course it has its challenges, living so closely with other families. CCO is close to the lake and sometimes we go for a walk on the beach at Lake Michigan. We can be together and watch the dogs run and play. We can just enjoy being a family.”
Since moving into the shelter, Nathan has gotten full-time employment at Argo Tea, an upscale urban café. One of Nathan’s tasks at work is to unload large amounts of tea. He explained that if the packages aren’t shipped to them on a pallet the containers could shift and get damaged. While doing this job Nathan had a realization that just as the tea needs a pallet, “in life you have to have a base. You have to have a starting point, a place to begin.”
We are glad Nathan turned to Cornerstone as “a place to begin.” He continues to focus on being a father while working full-time as he searches for permanent housing. We look forward to seeing him further stabilize his family while continuing to pursue his goals.
Over the last few years we have seen an increase in fathers with children seeking shelter. We applaud the men who choose to raise their children even under the most difficult circumstances. CCO considers it a privilege to continue serving and welcoming this underserved population.
-Nathan as told to Beth Nicholls