ST. LOUIS - A north St. Louis building is not a hospital but it is a place for healing. It's also a place where wounds are openings to the soul.
"On the street corners, I stood on, probably you all stood on, I didn't see no love and support. What I seen was drive-bys, dope selling and prostitution, "said one man.
This is a rap session at the non-profit Fathers Support Center, designed to help children by helping men become responsible dads.
"We've got an array of people who are going to come in and teach you how to get back into the group with life issues man," explained Jeffrey Irons.
The 55-year-old Irons is an educator here, but also a former client. He says a friend talked him into coming and he finally found himself after years of being lost.
"I began to get into all type of criminal activity, begin to get into drugs. I begin to get into guns," he told NewsChannel 5.
Irons spent 18 years in prison.
"We want to know that someone cares," he explained. "Especially after we're broke. We've been broken. And when they showed that they care, it begin to build up my morale. I'm ready to start this thing."
Halbert Sullivan founded the Fathers Support Center back in 1997, meaning he's seen a lot of men graduate from the program.
"A little over 13,000. Mind blowing," Sullivan said.
Sullivan, who also spent time in prison, turned his life around and got a Master's degree in social work at Washington University. He studied the harmful effects of absentee fathers.
Research shows that children with absent fathers are more likely to live in poverty, drop out of high school and commit a crime.
"Most of the time, I just like to give them knowledge and tell them to stay out of trouble," 43-year-old Eddie Roberts, who graduated from the program in 1997, said.
Roberts believes when it comes to kids, you spell love T-I-M-E.
"We love to watch SportsCenter, anything sports related. Like we go to the baseball games and chop it up about that," explained 19-year-old Eddie Roberts Junior.
But it's something Roberts Senior had to learn because he grew up without a dad.
"I didn't want to go to prison," he told NewsChannel 5. "I didn't want to get hooked on drugs. I wanted to show them what it was actually like to have a father in their life."
The six-week program isn't easy. Learning personal responsibility takes structure, commitment and discipline.
"You'll pull your pants up, you are going to take that hat off in the building and you're going to be on time. Or you won't be here," Reginald Slaughter, a supervisor, said.
But now graduates like Roberts come back with their kids to let new clients know it's all worth it.
"My dad used to be in the same predicament as these dads and I hope they go through the program because I've seen how it shaped my father into a better man," Roberts 16-year-old son Drebari said.
Hardship can be a bully and fighting back takes courage. Not all the men who are here today will stick with the program but organizers say, the ones who do will have a blueprint for success.
The Father's Support group, helping men get through the hardest times to find time for their kids.
"It works if you work it," Irons said.