Shelter for Single Fathers and Children
Reuel S. Amdur
On May 18, Quebec Minister of Social Services Lionel Carmant announced a grant of $25 million over five years to the 22 Maisons d’Oxygène. In a word, these houses aid single fathers with children.
We were intrigued about a social agency with such a role. Usually such agencies are tasked with serving mothers, so we undertook to learn more. We began with the Minister’s explanation of the services to be supported:
- strengthen intervention with fathers who find themselves in vulnerable situations or who suffer psychological distress or mental illness;
- preserve the father-child connection;
- prevent homelessness of father and children;
- prevent isolation;
- prevent family violence and suicide;
- aid return to work and social inclusion.
Maison Oxygène itself explains its purpose as “to promote the preservation or consolidation of the father-child bond by offering accommodation and community and psychosocial support to fathers experiencing distress linked to family, social, or personal difficulties.” It offers individual support, material support, support for parenting, and support for social anchoring. It also provides external help for those not needing accommodation.
All that is what is on paper. We decided to find out what Maison Oxygène is like for those it serves, so we visited the Outaouais facility where we met with Junior, a resident. He summed up the place succinctly as offering a roof over his head and support to regain control of his life.
“My wife took a lover, leaving me out. I was a miner, so I had put the house in her name, in case anything happened to me down there. So I was out of the house and I had nothing. She cleaned me out. I was left living in my van, but the police put an end to that. They towed me to my -parents’ place.”
Without giving any details, he made it clear that his relationship with his parents was not good and that staying with them was not an option. “I had no family and no friends.” Then he heard about Maison Oxygène. He took a chance. “This house just opened. There are two of us now and two more will be coming soon.”
“I don’t take things for granted. I wanted to know if the people I was dealing with here knew what they were doing. It turns out that they all have good qualifications. As far as mental health is concerned, this place is the best. It became clear that I was depressed, and they insisted that I get the help I needed. Men do not readily accept that kind of help, but they actually took me to my family doctor for a prescription for anti-depressants. Quite clearly, I was not alone when I came here.”
Junior has three children and gets to see them every other weekend at the house. “This place saves lives. If it hadn’t been for Maison Oxygène, I couldn’t see my kids.” In fact, with no place to stay he would probably have ended up in a men’s shelter, like the Salvation Army, which is not set up to handle children.
Junior recommends that men facing the kinds of troubles he faces should get over their need to be seen as macho and admit their need for help. “This is the place to stay, to get encouragement, and to get counselling.” He will be staying at this place till he gets a couple things ironed out. There are the court proceedings around the children but also his depression. He wants to go back to work “but I can’t go back underground.”
To contact Maison Oxgène, call 819-205-1451.
Photo 1 caption: Maison Oxgène de Québec's website.
Photo credit: Screenshot from https://maisonoxygenequebec.org/.
Photo 2 caption: Maison Oxygen has 22 locations in Canada.
Photo credit: Screenshot from Google Maps.