Single Father of 3 Overcomes Homelessness

Tuesday, January 27th 2009, 8:33 pm
By: News 9

By Alex Cameron, NEWS 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- They may work where you work; their kids may go to school with your kids. They may be a lot like you, except for one thing -- they don't have a home.

When some people hear the word 'homeless' some sorts of images that come to mind may be middle-aged men, aimless, possibly addicted or, indigent. That's the stereotype, but, more and more, that stereotype is inaccurate.

"Not everybody that's at the homeless shelter is uneducated, is on drugs, is an alcoholic, or is a bad person," Joseph Bennett said.

Bennett recently moved out of a shelter and into a south side rent house. He is raising three children; 3-year-old David, 2-year-old Layla and 1-year-old Gabriel.

"They're really doing good, I mean, they're actually starting to bond now," Bennett said.

The three had been separated, a year earlier, from each other, and from their Dad, when baby Gabe got hurt, allegedly at the hands of his mother, to whom Bennett was still married at the time. Disability and bad luck had already forced them out on the street, leaving Bennett in unfamiliar territory.

"In a million years I never thought that I would be in this position, where I would actually be having to ask other people for help," Bennett said.

Homeless advocates say Bennett is a perfect example of the multiple challenges the homeless can face.

"He had legal issues, custody issues, health insurance issues, a physical disability, and housing issues and there's no single agency in Oklahoma City that can do all of that," Dan Straughn with the Homeless Alliance said.

But help is available to those who seek it, and Bennett did, motivated by one thing.

"They mean the world to me, I mean, this past year has been the hardest thing I've ever been through, because there were times this past year when I, I was uncertain if I would ever have my children back," Bennett said.

"Nobody wants to live in a shelter, nobody wants to live on the street, not really," Straughn said. "If you give them an avenue where they can work on their own self-improvement with just a little boost here and there, yeah, he'll be successful, he'll do good."

Bennett and his kids are not at all alone out there. Homeless advocates said families now make up 20 percent of the city's homeless population.

According to homeless advocates, families are the fastest growing segment of the homeless population.

They plan to update their population statistics on Thursday, when they conduct their annual Point in Time homeless count.