Pregnant and Homeless: Helpful Resources for When You Need Help
Pregnancy is a time of joy, anticipation, and excitement for many women. However, if you live in a financially unstable situation, struggle with healthcare accessibility, and are or could potentially become homeless, pregnancy can go from a joyous time to a terrifying and overwhelming circumstance.
The Facts: Pregnancy and Homelessness
Studies have shown that homeless women have an increased chance of becoming pregnant. Recent data showed that in Minneapolis, over half the female homeless population between the ages of 15-22 had already been pregnant at least once. In addition, 30% of homeless pregnant women stated they were forced into unwanted sex or needed to have ‘survival sex’ to access food, shelter, money, or drugs. Statistics also show that 42% of fertile homeless women do not use contraception due to lack of access, financial inability to purchase, or because they were in a monogamous relationship.
It is estimated that 600,000 families and roughly 1.35 million children experience homelessness annually in the United States. According to the National Center for Homelessness, 84% of these homeless families are headed by women.
Undoubtedly, the COVID-19 pandemic put a strain on an already overwhelmed human services issue. People lost jobs, savings, and homes for a myriad of reasons. While many places offered payment forgiveness and the government extended unemployment benefits, systems were overloaded with record numbers, and case management fell far behind. Nevertheless, homelessness was an issue pre-pandemic and will continue to be one post.
When a woman becomes pregnant with an unplanned pregnancy, she is left with few options, and if she is a teen, she is more likely to be rejected from her family and become homeless.
In addition, pregnant women who do not have stable housing face more significant health risks for themselves and their babies. These health risks are not solely physical but also mental.
While there are resources and assistance programs for homeless women and pregnant women, many are unaware of these programs, not sure where or how to ask for help, or face feelings of shame and avoid seeking assistance.
If you are pregnant and homeless or are looking for ways to help someone else, this article outlines potential risks and lists available resources and ways you can aid those in need.
Associated Risks of Being Pregnant and Homeless
Pregnancy is in itself a major medical condition; therefore, pregnant individuals need regular medical attention to monitor their health as well as the health of their baby. Unfortunately, homeless and low-income individuals are less likely to receive adequate and regular medical care for themselves or their babies. While there is never a guarantee of a no-risk pregnancy, proper medical care provides the best bet for a healthy outcome.
Reasons for Inadequate Medical Care
- Lack of income to pay for treatment
- Lack of transportation to get to appointments
- Lack of child care to watch existing children while they attend an appointment
- Lack of health insurance
- Lack of resources on how to obtain assistance
- Lack of finances to pay for prenatal vitamins or other treatments
Risks of Inadequate Prenatal Care
- Preterm labor, miscarriage, or stillbirth
- Low birth weight
- Poor nutrition
- Increased rates of depression, stress, and poor mental health
- Higher rates of alcohol and drug use can cause congenital disabilities, preterm labor, and stillbirth
- Post birth complications
Risks Post Birth
- Inadequate medical care for the baby and the mother
- Increased stress and depression for the mother
- Lack of secure attachment for the baby
- Unsafe and unsanitary living environments
- Inadequate nutrition for the mother and the baby
Resources Available for Homeless Pregnant Women
If you are homeless and pregnant or know someone who is, there are resources and organizations that can help. There are various housing assistance, mental health services, job training, and homeless prenatal programs available.
There are different types of housing assistance available when you are homeless:
Emergency Shelters are for people who find themselves suddenly homeless and may include short-term housing for women suffering from domestic violence.
Transitional Housing can include housing for up to 24 months and additional services to help individuals stabilize their situations. Transitional housing may also include domestic abuse shelters.
Permanent Housing is safe, stable housing, which sometimes comes along with additional support services to help sufferers overcome the effects of abuse and mental health struggles.
- Public Housing is provided in every city in America through the Public Housing Association. Public housing often has a lengthy waitlist and requires background checks and income verification.
- Low-income housing is for people who do not require transitional housing services but still need help financially. There are income thresholds to qualify.
- There is also rental assistance and subsidies. Landlords must accept payment vouchers. This type of housing offers a more stable environment, but finding landlords who accept the section 8 vouchers can be challenging. There are income thresholds to qualify.
The following organizations can help if you or someone you know is pregnant and homeless:
- U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
- National Coalition for the Homeless
- National Call Center for Homeless Veterans
- Free Grants for Women
- Corporation for Supportive Housing
- Catholic Charities
Health Care & Nutritional Assistance
One of the primary reasons low-income and homeless women do not have adequate prenatal care is because they lack health insurance. Every state offers free or low-cost insurance through Medicaid and CHIP for low-income pregnant women and children of low-income families. To receive these services, you must apply, verify proof of income, and may have to work with a caseworker via social services to qualify. Eligibility will vary from city to city or state to state.
Some cities and regions have non-profit healthcare clinics that cater to homeless and low-income individuals. There are also non-profit organizations and the federal WIC (women, infants, and children) program, which is designed to provide adequate nutrition for pregnant women, infants, and children.
Check out the following organizations to receive support, advice and information regarding health care and pregnancy if you are homeless:
- Mental Health Hotline - 866 903 3787
- National Healthcare for the Homeless Council
- National Call Center for Homeless Veterans
- Aid for Women
- Food and Nutrition Services (WIC)
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (Treatment Referral Routing Service) - 1 800 662 5347
Financial & Job Assistance
Sometimes, a job is the only thing preventing a person from eviction. However, if you have recently lost your job, are unsure how you will work now you are pregnant, will need help to secure a job once you become a mother, or need help finding affordable child care, there are resources and support services that can help.
A woman cannot be denied a job or fired from a job due to her pregnancy; however, it can be difficult to prove loss of employment due to pregnancy.
Your local library is an excellent place to start. Many offer free programs, including computer training, resume help, and job fairs, and they may even provide child care during these events. In addition, a librarian is an excellent resource for the community and information in general. At the very least, libraries offer free internet, resource centers, and distractions for your child in their children’s play areas while using the computer.
Check out the following organizations to receive support, advice, and information regarding financial and career support if you are pregnant and homeless:
- Planned Parenthood
- Office of Child Support Enforcement
- HUD Exchange
- Coalition for the Homeless
Tips for Homeless Pregnant Women
Being homeless and pregnant is scary. Although it will be challenging, there are things you can do as you navigate the community services and financial assistance available to you to make things go as smoothly as possible:
- Keep copies of your health and pregnancy information on your person at all times. That way, if you require emergency medical care, the medical staff will have everything they need to know before treating you.
- If your child attends school or spends time with a caregiver while you work or look for work, keep a copy of their contact information with you at all times.
- If at all possible, try and build a support system. Pregnancy and homelessness are nothing to be ashamed of. If you have no family or friends to help reach out to local organizations, look for support groups you can attend or use a library to join a safe online chat group.
- Make a plan to find a safe place to sleep each night
- Eat as healthily as possible, and contact a local women’s shelter for aid with nutrition and prenatal supplements.
Adoption, Abortion, and Parenting Resources
The following resources can help if you are considering adoption, abortion, or just want to get general advice and information about parenting:
- American Adoptions
- Bethany Christian Services
- Connections Adoption Services
- Lifetime Adoption
- The National Coalition for the Homeless
- Women’s, Infants and Children (WIC)
- Childcare Assistance Through the Office of Child Care
- Abortion Laws
- Planned Parenthood
Ways to Get Involved
If you are looking for ways to assist homeless people and support advocacy for pregnant homeless women, there are several ways you can make a difference:
- Contact local women’s shelters and ask what items they need most. More often, it is formula, diapers, and wipes. But, of course, financial donations are also always welcome.
- If you possess a particular skill set, contact your local library or homeless shelter and offer a free class or series of classes. Things as simple as healthy cooking and meal prep, how to write a resume, maintain basic baby care, etc., are all useful. Are you a trained barber or stylist? Offer free hair cuts or shaves.
- Volunteer to babysit or provide childcare at a local women’s shelter so women can attend job training, interviews, and work. Typically interviews, background checks, and references are required.
- Create homeless goody bags and pass them out. This is a great activity to do with children. Use a gallon or quart Ziploc bag and fill it with various items useful to homeless individuals such as:
- Granola or protein bars
- Packs of nuts or trail mix
- Water bottle
- Travel deodorant
- Sanitary pads
- Toothbrush and travel toothpaste
- Gum or mints
- New socks
- Travel hand sanitizer
- Wet wipes or tissues
- Nail file
- A gift card to a local store (pharmacy or grocery store)
Being pregnant and homeless is a challenge, but it doesn’t have to be hopeless. Some programs have a lot of red tape to cut through in order to get aid; but don’t give up. Keep working with your case manager, using free resources like the library and shelters, and look for support within your community. Help is out there. You are not alone.
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