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Giving men a second chance in life

Oak Foundation Denmark / Partner story

Photo by Picsea on Unsplash

Jesper Kofoed* was living an ordinary life with his partner, four children, his own business and a house in a middleclass area of Copenhagen, Denmark. But when he went out of business and ended up with huge debts, things started spiralling downwards. His girlfriend left him and the relationship with his children became challenging. Jesper ended up homeless.

He got in contact with Mandecentret, which translates as “Men’s centre”. This organisation, which has branches all over the country, helps men from broken families through counselling, both to men alone and to couples, legal advice, and temporary housing. It also helps ensure that the men are able to spend time with their children, and it connects the men to support groups and networks all over the country. 

Jesper was offered a place to stay in Esbjerg, a seaport town on the west coast of the Jutland peninsula in southwest Denmark. “It was such a relief for me to get a room at Mandecentret in Esbjerg,” he says. “When I arrived, I was full of despair and felt as a complete zero. But I started getting a grip on myself and getting to know myself again. I had some fantastic counselling hours with the director of Mandecentret and he was so good at listening. He did not tell me what to do but he told me what my possibilities were and what I could do. I started feeling some hope and joy again and I got the time out that I really needed.”

Jesper is not alone in his experience. For many men, a divorce can come as a shock, causing feelings of powerlessness and discouragement, and can be the precursor to heavy drinking. With several offices all over Denmark, the Mandecenteet offers advice to men going through divorce, as well as men who are victims of domestic violence. The Mandecentret gives practical advice to men passing through difficult times such as these, with the aim of preventing acute crises leading to unemployment, abuse, or homelessness. In addition, it works to ensure that fathers maintain contact with their children after a divorce. It has found the vast majority of the men that it works with are ready to start life again with a little support and advice.

Jesper was eventually moved to the centre in Copenhagen, where he stayed for seven months. “I was desperate to see my children again and experience daily life,” he says. “That was possible for me at the centre, as my two youngest children could come and stay with me. And the two older ones I met regularly for walks and eating out etc. At the shelter I met other men like me. I was not alone. It was a safe harbour to accept myself and get a new start.”

In 2020, Mandecentret received 1,900 unique inquiries. 1,000 men received free-of-charge counselling services or other help but did not stay the shelter. Of the men helped, 85 per cent have children, and 37 per cent were able to find ways to meet regularly with their children with the help of Mandecentret, in comparison with only 27 per cent beforehand. Some 61 per cent were able to keep their job or improve their work situation while staying at the shelter.

This grant falls under Oak Foundation Denmark, which believes that communities need to work for everyone, and that roadmaps to opportunity and systems that protect people are clear and available for all. To this end, Oak Foundation Denmark provides support to organisations in Denmark that come up with innovative solutions to improve the lives of socially vulnerable and marginalised groups at community levels. You can find out more about the programme here. For information about the programme in Danish, please visit its website here.

*Note: The person’s name was changed in order to respect their anonymity