They are running about seemingly full of energy, playing with each other and making shy faces in response to hellos. Everything appears normal, no one would think it, brothers Zacharius, 5 and Ezekiel, 3, have not eaten in days and have spent the last few nights sleeping on the Brian Lara Promenade in Port-of-Spain, with their father.
Thirty-nine-year-old Kevin Preto claimed he and his sons were recently asked to leave their last place of abode after his landlord asked him for money which he did not have to purchase an illegal narcotic.
"Up to now, I don’t know what I did Mr (calls name) after he asked me that and I told him I did not have any money to assist him in buying that. He started moving differently with me and then I was asked to move," Preto says.
His voice breaking and tears streaming down his face, a heart-broken Preto moaned, in disbelief, "We sleep on the promenade last night (Thursday). My children have nothing, nowhere to go. I have no employment anything! All I want to be is a father, boy. I have no friends, no family, nothing, all I want to be is a father, boy. Why that so hard to do, boy?"
He explained he had obtained the temporary shelter with the assistance of a Chaguanas-based church of which he was a member.
"Right now the clothes these children have on are all they have. I washed them this morning on the promenade and put them back on them semi-wet," Preto laments.
He claimed the landlord has refused to allow him to pick up the balance of his belongings from the apartment, which includes the children’s clothes.
Overcome with emotion, at one point, Preto got up during the interview and ran to the corner of the room sobbing bitterly for at least two minutes, his sons are trying to console him, before he catches himself. "From then to now this is my predicament. Me eh no criminal…me eh no zesser, I just want to be a father. Right now we are lacking positive role models in the society. We eh lacking men…we’re lacking fathers. And that’s all I want to be and doh want to be nothing else…and it comes like every turn I make, I failing my children and them."
His biggest fear he told the Sunday Guardian is that his children might be taken away from him.
But the unfortunate turn of events didn’t recently begin in Preto’s life. It dates back earlier this year to February after the 33-year-old mother of his children abandoned the family, making him a single father.
Recounting the troubling day, Preto said hours before he got home around noon, he had contacted his common-law wife to check in with her and the children. He said he found it strange that he was not hearing his children but rather loud soca music and when he inquired, she explained she was downstairs near the bar, which is situated near the house. However, when he got home, this was far from the case. What he discovered were his two children butt naked left locked up in the house alone.
"I called her and asked her where she was and she said she was home and I told her (calling her by name) 'you are not home, because I am here and children are here by themselves,'" Preto says.
He claimed the mother then hung up the phone and all subsequent calls went unanswered.
The next time he would see the woman he once shared an intimate life with, was on February 3 when he claimed she returned to the house with police to pick up her belongings—the children were not included in that pick up.
With no extra money to seek alternative care for his children, Preto a then security guard, who was the family’s sole breadwinner, lost his job. Not too long after he also lost his apartment, after he claims the mother of his children came back yet another time and defaced the premises, forcing him to take out a restraining order against her.
Preto who admitted to having a criminal past more than 25 years ago, before having children, claimed his life changed once they became a part of his existence and has never since had a run-in with the law.
He revealed he served two sentences at the Youth Training Centre (YTC)—completing seven years and then six months for crimes of breaking and entering, robbery and larceny.
Asked if he believed with his current situation, it may force him to return to a life of unlawful behaviour, out of possibly sheer desperation, Preto swore even in the face of his greatest adversity, a life of crime again would never be his "go-to" plan.
"Yes, I am a single father and yes things, tough, but when you give in and you go and do crime, that is when everything does really fall apart and you cyah come back from that, no matter what you try," Preto says.
He resolved it would be better a person going through a situation similar to his, "bite their grind", cry if they must, stay hungry, but at all cost avoid getting involved in crime as a means to support their children. He said, in the long run, it would only cause further disaster as one might become incarcerated and the worry for one’s children, which formerly existed, would now become even greater.
"You know what it is to be walking the promenade last night and my older son saying ‘daddy, chicken and fries and I cyah buy nothing for them? I coulda do crime. I just want a work so I could make it out here, send them to school, let them make something of themselves in life, that’s all I want in life," vowed a blubbering Preto.
Preto said, he is not looking for pity; he just wants someone to give him a proper job so that he could catch himself.
"I don’t want no charity where somebody has to be helping me every month. I just want one good door to open. They going to school already, all I want is somewhere to rest my head and employment so I can see about my children and myself. I will not disappoint them (employer) and I will not bring them down," he promised.
The Sunday Guardian reached out to the Children’s Authority who promised they would intervene in the matter.