Facing homelessness and separation, single dad highlights St. John’s housing crisis

Facing homelessness and separation, single dad highlights St. John's housing crisis
Tristen Keats says he lacks government support in his fight to find a home for him and his son. Facing eviction from his current apartment, he would be required to give up his son before heading into an emergency shelter.

Tristen Keats, a single father living in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, is on the brink of homelessness as he grapples with a housing crisis that has swept across the country. His story underscores the grim reality faced by many single parents in the region who are struggling to provide for their children while navigating a challenging housing market.

Keats, who turns 27 this month, currently lives in a small basement apartment with his three-year-old son, Jacoby, and his mother. The apartment is advertised for one person, and the landlord has given them a few months to find a new place.

“People are living on the side of the street in tents,” Keats said. “Me and him are just about there now, right? We got a couple months.”

The rising demand for social housing and emergency shelters has forced many residents to resort to living in tents in public spaces around St. John’s. Abbey Quinlan, the Employment Services Lead at the Single Parent Association of Newfoundland and Labrador, says that the demand for their services, especially their food bank, is rapidly increasing.

“I think it’s significantly, significantly impacting them,” Quinlan said. “They’re trying to do and provide the same amount of services and resources to their kids as two people sometimes are.”

Abbey Quinlan works for the Single Parent Association of Newfoundland and Labrador and says there has been an increase in the demand for their services and help over the past year.

Keats has made significant strides in his personal life, overcoming addiction and homelessness to become a devoted father to Jacoby. His current housing predicament threatens to undo that progress.

“I was on drugs, drinking, you know, I didn’t give my mother a very good life. I didn’t have a very good life for myself because of myself,” Keats said. “Before Jacoby, I didn’t really care about anything. I didn’t have a life. I just lived to exist. And now that I have Jacoby, I live for him.”

Keats has three options for housing: the private rental market, government housing, and emergency shelters. He’s reached out to countless landlords and property management companies with no success, a situation he believes is exacerbated by the fact that he relies on income support.

The Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation, which offers government housing, has a waiting list of almost 1,000 people. Keats has been told he could be waiting for up to three years.

housing rights protest

The third option, emergency shelters, often requires parents to give up custody of their children in order to secure a bed. St. John’s has emergency shelters for women and children experiencing domestic violence, but options are limited for single parents facing homelessness.

“I don’t think anybody should have the right to say that to somebody,” Keats said. “You get to go home at the end of the day with a check, a house, your kids, whatever you want. And you don’t have to worry about my problems anymore.”

Despite the seemingly insurmountable challenges, Keats is determined to find a way to provide for his son.

“I don’t care if it was me. I’ve done that before in my life. My worry is him. He can’t sleep outside every day. I’ll figure that out and I’ll sleep outside. But it won’t be him.”

This poignant story of a father’s love and determination in the face of adversity highlights the urgent need for solutions to address the housing crisis in Newfoundland and Labrador. The province’s single parents, like Keats, deserve the opportunity to provide a safe and stable home for their children without facing the threat of homelessness or separation.