The struggle of being pregnant and homeless is a struggle that often falls upon deaf ears. Many people don't consider the risks of pregnancy associated with a woman's homelessness. Unfortunately, many of these women are subject to an increased risk of unplanned pregnancy, whether through a lack of support or education on the matter.
The prevalence of this issue is more common than people might think. A study conducted in Canada reports that approximately 50% of homeless women become pregnant, with the majority becoming pregnant within their first year of homelessness. While pregnancy and homelessness on their own individually can test anyone to their limits the two combined is often too much to bear.
Although the stories of homeless pregnant women too often ends in tragedy there have cases that might lend a sense of hope. Homeless women are more than deserving of the love and warmth given to other expectant mothers. Although many are quick to judge a woman for getting pregnant without the proper means to care for a child, looking deeper into the stories of these women offers a wider perspective.
While it's easy to dismiss a homeless pregnancy as the simple result of bad life choices, but the reality is always far from being so simple. Some of these women escaped from abusive homes, while others have been raped while out on the streets. These stories are seldom pleasant, but for all of the gloom in them, it's important to keep a mind on the cases that turn out well for child and mother alike.
Even if many of these stories are not for the faint of heart, there can always be hope. Some of the names have been changed to protect the privacy of these individuals.
Hannah is a 21 year old woman who ran away from an abusive home years before. She spent the next few years roaming the streets of Toronto. Without anywhere to go, she quickly fell into a cycle of sexual abuse and drug use. By the time she turned 21, she had a young child and was now pregnant with another. Losing her first child to social services had an immense impact on her.
Turning away from sex work to maximize the chances of keeping her second child, she turned to panhandling as an alternative, spending the afternoon hours of the day begging for money and spending the rest of her time exploring the city and looking for a dry place to rest.
Fortunately, her story was noticed by a news reporter, who interviewed her, shedding public light on the struggle of women like her. The exposure and support she received through the article gave her some of the starting necessities she required in order to get on the right path.
14 Homeless In Chicago
An unnamed woman was found dead on a park bench in Chicago. When police arrived on the scene, they found the body of a newborn infant on the grass a few meters away. Presumably, the woman had died in childbirth, resulting in the death of the newborn as well. The woman's criminal record ran a list of petty thefts and crimes, along with drug possession charges.
Upon an autopsy of the body, it was found that significant levels of crack cocaine were still in her system. While this is less of a story than it is a pure and gruesome tragedy, the inhumanity of it demonstrates just how dangerous it can be to be pregnant and homeless. Birth mortality rates without any medical assistance can be perilously high.
For women on the street, the means to safely birth a child simply aren't available. In some cases, an outright lack of sexual education prevents them from making the best choices for their child.
Isabelle moved with her family to the United States from Haiti at the age of 14. Family hardship upon immigrating caused an already abusive familial dynamic to get even worse. Fleeing the threat of violence, she ran away from home and ended up on the streets. Isabelle ultimately found refuge in a halfway house.
However, when it became apparent to her that she had become pregnant, she too fled the halfway house, worrying that she would be judged poorly for her indiscretion. By the age of 16, Isabelle had resorted to supporting herself via panhandling. Although she managed to survive via the barest essentials, when it came time to have her child, Social Services quickly took the newborn from her.
Whether you think this act of the State to override a mother's custody is justified or not it goes without saying that the idea of a new mother being separated from her offspring is tragic.
12 Midwest Worries
A young woman in the American Midwest named Mary grew up in an incredibly repressive and strictly religious household. A total lack of sexual education, paired with selective homeschooling, resulted in Mary getting pregnant without even knowing how babies are created in the first place.
When she realized what had happened to her, the fear of how her family would react impelled her to take off and strike out for herself. Unfortunately, due to her lack of education and life skills, she was quickly reduced to a state of decrepitude, eating and drinking whatever people gave to her.
Through all of this however, Mary did not turn to drugs or other street-related risks. A few months before the baby was born however, she was picked up by a halfway house. The social workers at this home made sure to learn the skills and essentials she had been denied by her family. When the baby was finally born, she was able to keep it, although the issue of being a single mother would remain incredibly difficult.
11 On The Streets In The Bronx
Although many of us might think of the homeless themselves when speaking of these stories, it's every bit as important to shine light on the efforts of relief workers. One such group in particular raised money to purchase a van that deployed relief throughout the Bronx, NY area to disaffected homeless women.
Workers would report stepping over dirty needles on their route to deliver prenatal supplies and food to the pregnant homeless. On top of providing some much-needed aid to these women, the ties and trust that came with lending this help resulted in some of the homeless women asking for real help and reformation, something most did not trust the state to reasonably provide.
Although by no means a solution to this issue, the efforts of relief workers such as these offered some real help to the women in need. Moreover, it demonstrates that even some of the worst situations may shed glimmers of hope.
10 Displaced In San Fransisco
In San Francisco, a similar relief effort was organized. In this case, a woman named Martha Ryan became horrified by the way pregnant homeless women had been completely overlooked by the state and general public. Feeling the need to do something about it, she wrote a grant appeal to the government asking for funds to begin a stable relief effort.
To her great surprise, the grant was approved. With the funds in place, she started a prenatal homeless care clinic. This clinic was operated specifically with the intent of lending relief and proper care to women who may have otherwise gone without the care other pregnant women might take for granted.
In an instance similar to the Bronx relief, some of the women aided by the prenatal clinic reached out for help to get them out of homelessness entirely. As a result, some of the pregnant women were able to raise their children without the fear of having them taken away.
9 Carrie Hamilton
Carrie Hamilton had spent several of her earlier years as a crystal meth addict. Living out of a minivan with her first child, she struggled to make ends meet on a day-by-day basis. This bleak situation was made worse when she lost her menial job, and harsher still when she discovered she was pregnant shortly thereafter.
The added tension finally convinced her that she was going to get serious assistance, lest she risk losing both of her children. A non-profit organization, much like the one Martha Ryan founded in San Francisco, helped her get off of drugs and into a comforting family shelter. It was here that a pro-bono doctor told her she could expect a perfectly healthy son in the months to come.
The shelter also helped her look for new sources of employment. Years later, after securing her family, she worked as an outreach worker for other homeless women in the spot she once struggled in herself.
8 Homelessness In Ontario
A young couple was happily married and expecting their first child. They lived in a small, but comfortable home in York, Ontario. However, in a terrible turn of events, both lost their jobs at the same time. Unable to find work or other finance options in time, they lost their home soon as well. This devastated the new couple, who took to living in their car.
All this while, the wife endured the ordinary pains of pregnancy, although they were quickly amplified by the lack of creature comforts their accommodations (or lack thereof) offered her. Through the loving help of friends and family in their area however, the husband was able to find replacement work in time for the birth.
They soon had place to stay through the kindness of others. As a result, they had somewhere comfortable to take the baby once it was born. Although this is a happier outcome than many, it's simultaneously important to recognize that not everyone is blessed with the fortune of a support network.
Had no one reached a hand to help, it's near-certain the outcome would have been much worse.
7 Shelter For Women In Missouri
The Monastery of Carmelite Sisters in Springfield, MO run programs to help homeless women who are pregnant. Although many state programs fail to recognize the prevalence of this issue (possibly due to the fact that it is very difficult to keep track of homeless populations) this non-profit shelter would work miracles for the women that needed their help.
In the shelter, the Sisters would run programs teaching the women to learn vital skills in life, with the hopes of getting them back on track and off the streets. For many in the program, this help proved invaluable; even for the ones who ended back on the streets, the kindness and comfort they offered at the shelter offered precious relief from an otherwise pained existence.
Once women had a child, they could even stay for a time while they got their means in order. Each case that passed through the Sisters' door is another case of silent tragedy, but it is uplifting to think of the times where a woman managed to escape the cycle thanks to their help.
6 Not Having A Roof In Texas
A young woman living in East Texas lived in a strained existence with her repressive family. Once she became pregnant, it was a couple of months before the family took notice. When she admitted to the pregnancy upon being confronted, she was quickly kicked out of the house and told never to return.
Becoming homeless and pregnant in East Texas during a Summer heatwave proved to be a particularly awful combination. Roaming city streets on a daily basis searching for food, she became perpetually worried about heat exhaustion, for fear of hurting her child. Like many of the other more hopeful cases in this article, the woman was discovered and aided, this time by a Christian mission.
They kept her hydrated and fed throughout the Summer months. Having no proper means to support her child once it was born, the child was put up for adoption. Fortunately however, she has been able to visit the adoptive family and her child on a regular basis ever since.
5 In Need Of Help In Yorkshire
A one-legged sex worker living in Yorkshire in the UK already lived a difficult life. She was frequently abused and berated by clients, and struggled to make even the simplest ends meet. To make matters harsher, because an expensive prosthesis was unavailable to her, she would often make do by walking around on crutches.
The woman was ultimately impregnated by one of her clients. Hoping to keep the child, she vowed she would become clean for the child. However, with the constant realities of her life weighing down on her, it wasn't long before she resorting back to hard drugs as a way to cope.
During one drug-fuelled episode, she ended up having a miscarriage, costing her the life and potential future with her child. This completely devastated the woman. Rather than give in to drug use more however, she made a serious decision to be clean in honour of her unborn child.
4 Tonier Cain
The life of sex workers is often terrible, and unplanned pregnancy often stands as a chief risk among those living on the streets. One woman named Tonier Cain worked a tough life as a sex worker. On a particularly brutal night she was violently raped by a client and became pregnant as a result. This was devastating for her, but not just for the reasons you might think.
As it happened, Tonier had already had four previous children taken away by social services. With a fifth one in her belly, she was now terrified that she would face another tragedy in losing her child. Incidentally, an earnest chance to keep the child occurred when she was imprisoned for a petty theft offense.
She was given a chance to get clean from drugs whilst in prison, all the while learning skills on how to cope in the real world. By the time she got out, Tonier finally had the capability to keep her fifth child, whom she takes care of and nurtures to this day.
3 Violated In New York
A mentally ill homeless woman was raped by a gang in New York. According to accounts she told to the police following the incident, the rape was supposedly a rite of initiation for one of their newest members. Shortly after the assault, she was back on the street, and realized she had been impregnated by the incident. She was terrified by how people would think of her carrying a life inside of her.
In part due to her significant paranoid schizophrenia, she felt as were she under constant scrutiny from halfway houses she visited. Constantly fleeing help when it was offered to her, she darted from location to the next. When the time finally came, she underwent labour and had her child in Central Park. Emergency services were called by bystanders.
Shortly enough, social services and police were there to take the child away to live with family relatives. Once finally becoming clean, as well as medicated for her mental issues, the woman was fortunately able to reconnect with, and eventually claim custody of her child a few years later.
2 Running Away While Expecting
A teenage girl, who had run away from her family several months prior, broke things off with her live-in boyfriend at the time who abused her. Although she had no choice but to escape, this left her homeless as a result. In a twisted turn of events, she realized she was pregnant a couple of weeks into being homeless.
She tried to return to her boyfriend and ask him to support raising the child, but he kept her at the curb, stating he had no interest in giving up his "ability to party." Feeling completely despondent by this point, the girl had no choice but to attend a battered woman's shelter. Although she had never considered the possibility, it was here where she finally developed some fresh perspective.
She made a move to reconnect with her estranged family. They were all too happy to hear her voice again. With their support, she not only got to keep the child when it was born, but also returned to school to complete her graduation diploma.
1 A Miracle
Truly beautiful miracles only occur once in awhile. It probably didn't appear that way at first however for one young woman. She had grown up in an incredibly abusive household, where beatings had become a commonplace event. She ultimately ran away and resorted to couch-surfing for most of her teenage years, often falling into short-term relationships with men far older than herself.
With one such relationship, she became pregnant. The boyfriend told her that he expected her to abort it on her wishes. She wanted to keep it regardless what his feelings were. She ran far away from her ex, and ended up turning to a life of petty crime in order to support herself.
Although this managed to keep her afloat for a while, she was ultimately arrested and placed in a correctional program that presented her with the skills she needed in order to exist functionally. Whilst at the transitional house, she ended up meeting and becoming close with a young man who had recently come clean off of drugs and recuperated via the same program.
Upon realizing they had many of the same interests and aspirations, they began a relationship together. He was there when she finally had her baby. With the couple quickly establishing themselves as inseparable, the man took to raising the newborn child as if it was his own.