NORTH HOLLYWOOD - Brandon Meyer is celebrating Father's Day with his son, Nasir, in a homeless shelter this year but the 33-year old single dad doesn't expect that to dampen his mood.
After Meyer was laid off last summer from his delivery driver job of nearly four years, he and Nasir, 7, were forced to give up their Reseda apartment in October. The two shared a couch at the homes of friends and a relative for months and at times stayed in motels before being referred to L.A. Family Housing's Sydney M. Irmas Transitional Living Center in North Hollywood, the San Fernando Valley's largest homeless family shelter.
"I don't feel bad at all. Being a father is not about where you're living, it's about having your kids," Meyer, said Thursday from their spartan room at the shelter that resembles a college dormitory. "It's going to be as good as any other Father's Day."
The full-service shelter, which houses 65 homeless families at a time, has noticed an increase in both the number of single dads with kids and two-parent families in recent years, said Kris Freed, L.A. Family Housing's director of homeless programs for families.
There were an estimated 1.96 million single fathers in the nation in 2012. Sixteen percent of all single parents were men, according to Census Bureau data.
And while many people expect single moms to be homeless, "we're seeing a pretty significant increase of families that are intact that are homeless," Freed said, noting the shelter has served families as large as 12 people. "I think that a lot of it has to do with the economy right now."
Felix Cintron, his wife, Kristin, and their two boys - ages 8 and 4 - moved into the shelter about a week ago after bouncing from place to place and even spending a week on the streets or in parks or train stations. Cintron, who makes and mixes music as an independent freelancer, recently decided to move to L.A. from New York for better job opportunities, but the family, he said, quickly used up the little money they had for hotels.
"We went from shelter to shelter and finally got into this place out of some miracle luck," he said. "It was pretty much God on our side."
Now, his wife, a homemaker for much of her life, is getting training at the shelter's employment center and Felix, who is also working when he can, is optimistic they will be able to save enough money to leave within a few months.
For his part, Meyer said he considers himself and his son fortunate to have gotten into such a shelter so quickly. L.A.
Meyer, who grew up in Agoura Hills, is divorced and has raised Nasir by himself for the past five years.
Now that they've got a temporary place to stay, Meyer said he's much less stressed. The towering father with the goatee and blue eyes used to wake up every half-hour in a panic about where they would go and what they would do. Now, he said, he can focus on finding a good job that will enable him and his son to be on their own again.
"I've done a lot better than some homeless people; I haven't had to sleep on the curb or anything like that," he said. "I'm blessed. Somehow I got in this position, but I'm ready to get out. As for Nasir, he's "a trooper," Meyer said. As soon as they moved in to the shelter, Meyer hung up a toy basketball hoop in their room and the boy has been happy ever since. Nasir prefers watching and playing basketball - he's stood out as a player at their free church's league - over cartoons and most other activities, his father said.
Meyer's own parents divorced when he was 4 years old and his father stopped coming around when he was 6. He still gets choked up to this day, he said, when he watches father-son movies.
In fact, when he was a boy, Meyer said he wanted to be two things: a basketball player and a dad.
"Some people think being a father is just making a baby; it's more than that. You've got to put in work," he said. "Going up and down through all this depression, I can't tell you how many times you just want to give up. Having my son there, seeing him - (I've realized) when you give up, you're giving up on him and that's not fair to him. Being a father is like being lucky. It's happiness. It's a smile on your face. It's a reason to live."