Joseph Cantu is living through a parent’s nightmare. He’s homeless, abandoned by his spouse, and living out of a van with five kids. All he has is his faith and the hope his kids won’t remember this entire experience.
Homeless with Five Children
It all began with one stroke of bad luck after another. First Cantu’s wife left him and the children. Then the family got evicted. Eventually, Joseph had to get creative in order to find places for them to sleep every night.
“There’s been several nights where we stayed inside this van. We pull inside a rest area sometimes to sleep,” he said. “And then there’s several nights that some people will donate money here and there so we can sleep in a motel room.”
The final shoe fell when Cantu lost his job. He was employed as a polisher in the automobile business, but couldn’t balance it with caring for his kids, only two of which are in school. Now they struggle financially as the costs for the family’s needs overwhelm the little opportunity to pay them off.
“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.”
The children often ask him about their future and when they will go home. The answer seems impossible for the father at this time.
“We’re waiting on a placement through a shelter, but unfortunately here in southeast Michigan, there’s not many shelters for men with children,” he said.
He’s found that he qualifies with the Michigan Department of Human Services, but this won’t cover all of their expenses until he finds stable employment.
“I never thought this would happen to myself anyway but what bothers me the most is that they (his kids) have to endure it as well,” Cantu said, “and luckily they’re small enough they probably won’t remember it.” 
An Outpouring of Support
When this story aired on Fox 2, many people responded to the father’s plight. They contacted the station through phone calls and emails, and the story was shared several thousand times on Facebook, all within only days.
“I was very shocked, it humbled myself and I literally started crying, seeing the outreach of people that are willing to help,” Cantu said.
An auto salon reached out to Cantu about job opportunities and gave him an upcoming interview. The family also received donations and even offers from viewers to host the father and kids until they’re on their feet.
“I felt that the outreach that we received was phenomenal, it was tremendous because people are rooting for me and my kids,” he said.
Cantu found one of the few shelters in Michigan that accept men with children and are on the waiting list.
“After this is all said and done, I just hope that we can create a plan for other men with children, that might fall in the same situation.” 
The Plight of Homelessness
“You want to know what it’s like to be homeless? Just walk around all day,” said Tyrone, a government employee in the Washington state
Homelessness is a difficult situation to be in, especially being the provider for seniors and children. In a single night in 2018, a total of 552,830 people was experiencing this nightmare. Most of these people are individuals, while 33% are families with kids. Other subpopulations include youths under the age of 25 living on their own, veterans, and chronically homeless people who usually struggle with disabilities.
The homeless demographic is largely male, at about 70%. White Americans are the largest racial groupings, although African and Native Americans are overrepresented in this population. 
Some businesses are trying to assist the homeless population in small but helpful ways. Libraries have started offering showers, social workers, and nurses for homeless visitors. Transit agencies are transforming subway stations into makeshift shelters. Starbucks has passed a policy to allow noncustomers to use the bathrooms.
A Seattle-based initiative called The Pledge is signing on companies to offer services such as free water, bathroom use, and phone charging stations for homeless customers. These companies would be added to a map distributed to the homeless population and would hang a Pledge sticker on their door. So far, 43 companies have signed with The Pledge, and some add their own perks like free haircuts and even HIV tests.
“We know it’s not the same thing as solving homelessness,” said Lisa Michaud, the owner of Two Big Blondes, “but it’s important to us to get to know our homeless neighbors and offer them whatever we can.” 
We hope Joseph and the rest of the Cantu family pull through.
- Fox 2. Homeless father of five can’t find shelter that takes men with children http://www.fox2detroit.com/news/local-news/homeless-father-of-five-can-t-find-shelter-that-takes-men-with-children? September 4, 2019
- Fox 2. ‘God bless you guys’ – homeless father of 5 gets outpouring of support http://www.fox2detroit.com/news/local-news/-god-bless-you-guys-homeless-father-of-5-gets-outpouring-of-support September 6, 2019
- End Homelessness. State of Homelessness. https://endhomelessness.org/homelessness-in-america/homelessness-statistics/state-of-homelessness-report/ Michael Hobbes. Businesses Are Finally Stepping Up To Help The Homeless Crisis https://www.huffpost.com/entry/businesses-help-homeless-crisis_n_5d71829ae4b0fd4168e7d14e September 7, 2019
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