Louise Hunter found herself almost homeless when on a cold February night in 1966, a sheriff evicted her family of 16 from their two-bedroom house due to health code violations. The next day, a local pastor offered the family an 18-bedroom home for one dollar motivating the mother to pledge her life to helping others. That promise would become the Love and Charity shelter for the homeless.
Several years later she would have another child, Paul Hunter, born in 1970.
Hunter, now 46, hopes to help people overcome their problems. His book, “No Love, No Charity: The Success of the 19th Child,” chronicles his struggles with poverty and dysfunction as the 19th of 21 children of his detached mother who became absorbed in her charity, leaving little room for her offspring sorely in need of love.
“I was at-risk to go to prison, at-risk to be a drug dealer, at risk to be a drop-out,” Hunter said. “Today I just want to be a positive example for at-risk youth.”
He said with the help of his siblings and his own self-determination, he’s achieved significantly greater success than the odds predicted. He hopes to travel as a motivational speaker to spread his message to young people who face adversity.
The message, he says, is: “It is possible to live your dreams.”
Hunter’s father died when he was very young, leaving the widowed mother to fend for herself and raise his children alone.
Though his mother ran a homeless shelter in their hometown of Racine, Wisconsin, Hunter said he and his siblings lived in a home that often experienced a lack of food, clothing and even furniture.
“We did not have basic essentials,” Hunter said, recalling eating his mother’s hearty, yet sparse meals on the floor.
Hunter said his neighbors often left food and toys for him and his siblings.
“My mom was focused on her homeless shelter, so my siblings had to step up and become surrogate parents for the young ones,” Hunter said.
He said his older siblings were often left to feed, bathe and watch the younger siblings and as a result many had to forego their education.
Hunter is the only one of his siblings to graduate from college. In 2005, he earned an associate’s degree in Supervisory Management from Gateway Technical College and a bachelor’s degree in 2012 from Upper Iowa University in Business Administration.
Now the father of four children, two daughters, 23 and 20, and two sons, 18 and 11, Hunter says he’s raising his children in a different way.
“My four children call me Dad,” Hunter said, citing this among the key differences between his relationship with his children versus his relationship with his own mother.
“We were not allowed to call my mother Mom,” he said.
He said he and siblings were required to address his mother with a less affectionate and familiar title than most children, one he says will be revealed to readers in his book.
“I did the things with my children that my mother refused to do with me,” Hunter said.
These activities included eating dinner with his children, attending parent-teacher conferences, playing in outdoor activities and showing affection with actions like hugs.
“My mother wasn’t the best mom, but she did what she needed to do,” Hunter said of his now 83-year-old mother. “She saw a lot in the South, and it had an effect on her mind. There are things that she cannot talk about and said she wants to take to her grave.”
Hunter said the book is set to be adapted into a screenplay and is in the final stages of being translated into a script.
“I’m looking forward to moving on with that,” he said.