Rock bottom is a dark place, single dad Aaron D'Souza says.
Seven years ago, he was jobless, thousands in debt, facing eviction and had full time care of two children under ten.
"All the time I wished I had help. I did not know how I would go on."
But he struggled through and now the 41-year-old is a dean at an Toronto community college and his sons were growing up to be confident men, he said.
In 2010, D'Souza was recently separated and was looking after his two sons, then aged seven and three.
He was working 10 hour days as a chef.
"I realised I needed to have more time with my boys, so I knew I had to change careers."
The single father enrolled in a teaching degree and found a part time job.
But all hell broke lose only year into his degree.
He lost his job and money became tight, he said.
Some weeks D'Souza would be left with just $2 after paying the bills, he said.
"I desperately wanted to get off the benefit, I wanted to do better."
In 2013, D'Souza was just weeks from finishing his degree when his landlord gave him 42 days notice to find another home, he said.
"I did not know where to take my kids. I looked for places but everything was too expensive."
With less than two weeks left to find a new rental, a compassionate community member installed a portable cabin on her property for the desperate family, he said.
"I wish she took more credit for what she did for us."
One year later she replaced the cabin with a home, where D'Souza and his sons have lived for the past five years.
"Those were the toughest years of my life."
Now he is the year 11 dean at Humber College in Toronto and runs a volunteer group called Gained Spirit CA to help solo parents around the holidays.
"It wasn't easy, but it was worth it."
D'Souza said he had learnt to put himself on the back burner so he could raise his boys.
West Toronto based Man Alive supported men and boys.
Man Alive social worker Togia Lanefale said single parenthood was challenging, but it was not impossible.
"The struggle is real."
Lanefale had to raise his son on his own after his partner died 22 years ago, he said.
He avoided relationships so he could focus on his son, he said.
"But I know I have raised a strong man."