Fathers honored at the Chattanooga Housing Authority's Father's Day Celebration:
Fifteen-year-old Elizabeth Jones is one of five children raised by her father in Cromwell Apartments, a public housing complex off Shallowford Road.
"Without dad we wouldn't have the support that he gives us," she said.
They argue sometimes, but she knows her father, Ellis Jones, only wants the best for her, she said, and he's trying to help her raise $1,000 so she can enter a beauty pageant.
Elizabeth is lucky to have her father around.
Of the nearly 2,900 families who live in Chattanooga Housing Authority public housing sites, only 32 have fathers listed on the lease. Six of the 32 are single fathers, like Ellis Jones.
"My children are a part of me," said Jones. "I want them to have the best."
Behavior problems, low self-esteem and financial instability are the result of not having men around, housing officials say. So on Friday, CHA officials and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development wanted to honor the fathers who've stuck around.
"The ones who have taken the responsibility to stay and to take care of their children give cause for all kinds of celebration," said CHA board member Connie O'Neal.
The housing authority called the men together at its central office on Holtzclaw Avenue, ordered food and brought in organizations such as First Things First, Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department, Regions Bank and Chattanooga CARES that provide services useful to the fathers.
These are the men who model manhood for boys who live in public housing, and they show girls how to value themselves, O'Neal said.
"Unfortunately, people aren't raised in homes where they are taught to be fathers," O'Neal said. "And the system doesn't support it, so we have to celebrate those who are there because they make such a big difference in the lives of boys and girls."
HUD has announced a goal to reconnect fathers with their families in public housing. The focus on fatherhood stems from statistics that show fathers are absent in public housing homes and that the majority of households are headed by single women who earn less than $9,000 a year, according to HUD.
Ideally, it takes both parents, said CHA board Chairman Eddie Holmes.
"The presence of a man has a calming tendency on the children," he said.
On Friday, male role models such as Holmes, businessman Mark Jones and Larry High, owner of Bear's Barbershop, were among those who gave encouraging words to the men.
"Keep it up," said Vincent Phipps, CEO of Communications VIP. "We need to be consistent in the lives of our children and relentlessly supportive in the lives of our women."
Ellis Jones said that being a single dad of five means he can't work as much as he'd like because he spends a lot of time visiting his kids' schools and working on school projects.
He said he lives in public housing to make ends meet and doesn't socialize as much as some of his friends. But every sacrifice is worth the effort because he loves his children, he said.
"My dad wasn't around," he said. "I know how it feels not to have a father. You feel empty. I don't want that in their lives."
Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 423-757-6431.