Another Fatherless Father’s Day

Last year, in my Fatherless Father’s Day post, I asked the question “Why don’t they make a Father’s Day card that says ‘I know you did the best you could, and I still love you.'”

Unfortunately, even if Hallmark did make a card like that, I wouldn’t know where to send it.

Three months ago, I could have told you my father was living in an artist’s warehouse in Youngstown. It was a loose definition of home, not the kind with a private shower and a fridge full of food. But the studio space kept him safe and warm for several years, after a decade of wandering from city to city and shelter to shelter, working for anyone who would hire him and refusing to accept public assistance until he reached “retirement age.”

Then the Oakland, California, warehouse fire happened, killing 36 people and reminding us that millions of Americans have no safe place to go when rents keep going up and minimum wage does not. Dad’s landlord decided that people like my dad needed to move out. Of course, he didn’t tell us right away.  By the time he called my sister and a friend from church, there was already a padlock on the door with his meager belongings still inside. We all tried to help.  But forms and paperwork freak my dad out, motels don’t take messages and homeless shelters don’t forward mail.

Every once in awhile, I’ll get a kind soul on the other end of the phone, who agrees to leave my number on the shelter’s community message boards, just in case. But Dad’s still not returning any calls. So this Father’s Day, instead of feeling sad because I don’t have a traditional relationship with my dad, I’m speaking up on his behalf.

  • The next time you see a homeless person on the street, treat them with compassion and respect. We have no idea how they got there or who might be anxiously waiting for them to call home.
  • Reject the belief that housing shouldn’t be too cozy for the poor. Speak up for programs, policies and politicians who advocate for safe affordable homes for all Americans.
  • Learn more about the “housing first” philosophy, which is based on the idea that when barriers to stable housing are eliminated, people are more likely to reach their personal, health-related and employment goals. In Cleveland, this approach is supported by the Housing First Initiative.
  • Programs such as Front Steps Housing & Services provide affordable housing to those most in need. You can support their efforts with donations of money, time, talents or wish-list-items.

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