You are currently viewing Fighting for Fatherhood in a Broken System – NBC Bay Area

Fighting for Fatherhood in a Broken System – NBC Bay Area


Investigative Unit

Just as Mike’s baby is born, the mother is showing signs of delusional schizophrenia. When her destructive episodes escalate, she’s incarcerated and Mike and his baby daughter, Dani, are evicted from their apartment. Unable to work and care for his infant at the same time, Mike loses his job. He and Dani are suddenly homeless. Desperate for a safe place, he reaches out to homeless shelters but is repeatedly turned away.

For at least 20 years, we’ve been teaching our kids to be men, to be step up men.  Well, they’re stepping up. They’re doing what we’ve been asking them to do as society. But yet we’re not supporting them on that journey.

Colleen Berumen, Opportunity House

In NO MAN’S LAND, NBC Bay Area’s Investigative Unit uncovers systemic barriers putting families, like Mike and Dani, in danger by denying basic services to single fathers. Our team holds public officials accountable for a complex web of anti-male biases, racism and outdated rules that often shut these fathers out of housing, child care and even emergency shelter.

On top of losing his job and home, Mike has to raise his baby daughter on his own. After homeless shelters reject him because he has a child, he gets a surprising phone call with an offer to help.

Sitting in jail, not knowing where his kids are, Brandon hits rock bottom. When he resolves to get clean and be a father, no one will rent him an apartment. NBC Bay Area’s Investigative Unit exposes the housing program that keeps people like Brandon out on the streets.

A decades-old crime can bar someone from housing, even if they are reformed, gainfully employed and a father with children depending on him. NBC Bay Area’s Investigative Unit confronts one city official about a housing program that calls people with criminal pasts “weeds” and “two-legged predators” that need to be eliminated.

As Mike and John hang on by a thread, a child care crisis and the pandemic threaten to drive the single fathers back to the streets. NBC Bay Area’s Investigative Unit exposes social stigmas that make it harder for single dads to get essential services.

Single dads meet to talk about the “absent black father” myth and its damaging effects. One university study finds most children’s books about African-American families perpetuate the stigma.

Investigative reporter Candice Nguyen reveals how a chance meeting with a struggling single father awakened her own childhood memories and led her on a ten-month journey creating NO MAN’S LAND.


First, call 311 to access your local county services.

Single fathers, families and essential workers:

Emergency shelter resources :

Housing & formerly incarcerated resources:

Working parents and child care resources:

If you’re an essential worker or have a child with special needs, you may qualify for free child care in San Francisco.

Have a tip for investigative reporter Candice Nguyen?


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