Mother's Day has special meaning for struggling single father

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Mo. - On any given day, including Mother's Day, 40 or more families are homeless right here in the bi-state.

One of those families is a single father, a local man who is having to be both mom and dad to his infant daughter, as he faces some of life's darkest challenges. Changing time for 4-month-old Jhonee comes naturally to new dad John Pogue.

"It's been the greatest, greatest three months of my life so far," said Pogue about his daughter.

What he's still getting used to is experiencing the joys of fatherhood, the responsibility of being a single parent, and the heartache of unemployment and homelessness, all at the same time.

"I called 37 different shelters," said Pogue, "and nobody is equipped for a man and a baby, single father and a baby."

Nobody but Gateway 180. What's unique about Gateway 180 is that it helps families dealing with homelessness. John and Jhonee are from Jefferson County, but families who've stayed at the emergency shelter have come from states all over the country.

Still, the majority of families come from St. Louis County, where they've lost homes to foreclosure or the recession. And it's serving more single dads.

"We always have one or two, sometimes more. Right now I think we have four single dads," said Kathleen Heinz Beach, executive director of Gateway 180.

Pogue says he took over caring for Jhonee full time when her mother went to prison.

"We had a house, we had a bunch of cars," said Pogue. "I lived just like everybody else, and today I don't have none of that."

What he does have is hope. Something he says is stronger than all of those other things.

"Oh, this is my everything," said Pogue, as he hugs Jhonee close. "This is life, this is future, this is my best creation yet."

Pogue is determined to carve out a new life with his daughter. Gateway 180 helped him find day care, which means he has more time to look for a job. The hardest part of the past few weeks? Asking for help.

"It's hard to swallow your pride as a man, you want to be a provider," says Pogue.

But he also says he wants to do what's right, and is prepared to be both mother and father for his daughter.

Something he knows he can do with the help of Gateway 180.

Pogue says he's prepared to take just about any job, from driving a dump truck to washing dishes.


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