Shelter provides refuge for troubled dads, kids
Maison d'Oxygene unique in Canada By MONIQUE MUISE, The Gazette October 15, 2010 It all started 21 years ago with one troubled man. He showed up at the door of the Carrefour familial Hochelaga with a serious drinking problem, nowhere to stay, and two young children in tow.
"He was having very serious problems, but he didn't want to lose custody of his children," recalled Yvon Lemay, a coordinator at the Carrefour. The staff decided to open up a room for the man on evenings and weekends, and slowly, with the help of a case worker, he was able to pull himself together and provide a healthy environment for his kids outside the shelter. So began the Maison d'Oxygene, a temporary shelter and support centre, housed within the Carrefour, that caters specifically to dads in distress and their children. To date, it is the only facility of its kind in Canada.
"For men, the realities of the family have changed significantly over the last 30 years," Lemay explained. "With economic and social shifts ... it has changed things."
Some of those changes have been extremely positive, he added, but they have also meant that men may now face situations where they become sole providers for their children. The Maison d'Oxygene ensures that fathers facing the breakup of a relationship, a substance abuse problem, or even the loss of employment have somewhere to turn to for support, counselling, and help to get back on their feet.
"We make sure that when times become difficult, that men do not abandon their children ... and that fathers don't abandon themselves," Lemay said. The men may remain in the shelter, which includes five rooms, for up to three months. They are encouraged to participate in the Carrefour's many workshops while their children are looked after in the in-house daycare centre. There are family outings, referral services, and post-stay follow-ups with each family.
"We get calls from all across the province from fathers in difficulty, and there are still very few resources," Lemay said. "Men don't always ask for help until the last minute ... until the situation is dire."
In light of the ever-increasing demand, the Maison d'Oxygene has opened two more locations, in Baie Comeau and Drummondville, with a another to come in Sherbrooke. Lemay says it hopes to open more shelters over the next few years.
"Centraide has really been our foundation in terms of funding," he said. This year, the fundraising agency will provide a total of $171,750 for the Carrefour as a whole, a good portion of which will go to the Maison d'Oxygene, Lemay noted.
To donate to Centraide's annual campaign, visit centraide-mtl.orgor phone 514-288-1261. The campaign runs until Dec. 15.
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