Dad, daughter have a safe home with a little help

Sitting in a warm though stark apartment near San Francisco’s Bayview district while his 6-year old daughter, Akacia, was at school, Anthony Hodges confessed disappointment that he could not even afford a tiny Christmas tree – let alone anything to put under it – to brighten the holiday for his children.

“I’m struggling to make ends meet,” he said. “I can see to the back of my refrigerator now, but I’m able to make sure my daughter is fed.”

And yet, he said, “I’m blissful”: He and Akacia are in the first stable living situation they have known together.

A victim of domestic violence, Hodges, 41, successfully sued for custody of Akacia and divorced her mother. Without a home of their own, Hodges and Akacia qualified for Section 8 housing and secured an apartment, and were able to buy some modest furniture thanks to The Chronicle’s Season of Sharing Fund.

The Season of Sharing Fund provided beds for the father and daughter, as well as a dresser for Akacia.

“This time last year, I was living in the living room of my mother’s house,” Hodges said.

What Hodges wants most for the holidays is steady employment.

“I’ve done landscaping,” he said. “I’m a Virgo, so I’m naturally attracted to plants and stuff. But the thing I most like to do is warehousing, where I have a set list of things to do. … I can adjust to any kind of work situation in a warehouse. With the operation of a forklift, I’m not that confident yet, but I’m ready to be taught.”

He also hopes to return to City College of San Francisco, where financial aid is a real prospect, to learn plumbing skills. “The pipe fitters and plumbers union has an open test they’re doing this June, and I want to be able to be prepared for that,” Hodges said.

Hodges, who was raised in the Sunnydale neighborhood, left school at 16 to attend the Inland Empire Job Corps Center in San Bernardino. He said he learned skills such as landscaping, carpentry and culinary arts.

But his career goals were derailed. When he was 19, he was the victim of a drive-by shooting. He was shot twice in his right leg. His companion was shot fatally in the head.

Hodges doesn’t like to talk about the violence he’s experienced. Instead, he focuses on keeping Akacia safe, accompanying her to and from school in the Crocker-Amazon neighborhood. Often, after he drops her off, he visits his mother, who is in a wheelchair and relies on Hodges to do errands and house projects. He also does odd jobs as a carpenter and painter when he can find the work.

Hodges has two older children, Ajwanae and Anthony Jr., who recently became a father at 19. Hodges said he was upset that his son didn’t wait longer. “I blame myself,” Hodges said. “I wasn’t there to handle that kind of thing. I’m a grandfather now. I was angry about that at first, but when I look at that little girl, she’s just so beautiful.”

When Hodges looks back on own his youth, he admits, “I was not great at sitting down to focus on education.”

But his children, he said, have higher standards for themselves.

“I believe in my children. I know they’re going to do well,” he said.

Akacia’s mother, after a stint in jail, has moved back into the neighborhood. “She’s making an effort to spend time with Akacia,” Hodges said. “We’re slowly but surely becoming friends again.”

After the holidays, Hodges plans to shape up his resume and cover letters. Though he feels the pressures of poverty in a city he sees becoming more expensive and crowded, he feels hopeful.

“You’ve got to have faith. At the end of the day, if you don’t have faith, you’ve got absolutely nothing,” he said.

Besides, “My soul belongs in San Francisco.”


Kenneth Baker is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: Twitter: @kennethbakersf

The original article can be found here