Every year 600,000 families with 1.35 million children, or about 1 in 50 American children, experience homelessness. Homeless families are the fastest-growing segment of homeless people, now making up about 40 percent of the homeless population on any given night. They are typically headed by a single parent–about 85 percent are single mothers with children. It has also been studied that homeless young women are almost five times more likely to become pregnant and far more likely to experience multiple pregnancies than housed young women.
Two generations are at a risk when a homeless woman becomes pregnant
A woman is left with only three choices; parent the child, terminate the pregnancy or place the child for adoption. It can cost up to $233,610 to raise a child until 18 years of age in United States, a figure which can be daunting to a low-income/ no income family. Young girls are more prone to unplanned pregnancies who face rejection from the partner, family, and friends with no stable source of income or education to find a job. Without safe shelters, there is tremendous physical and emotional stress on the pregnant women which endangers their health and that of their unborn child.
Pregnancy is often unplanned and unwanted for a majority of homeless women
For a vast majority of the homeless women, pregnancy is unplanned and unwanted. 30% of these women reported being forced into sex and engaging in “survival sex” for food, money, shelter, or drugs, while 36% reported being trafficked.
When the child is born, long term homelessness, drug abuse and mental illness can even lead to mother-child separation. When mothers are forced to give up a baby, most experience normal initial grief reactions, but for homeless young mothers, these emotions may persist and lead to chronic, and unresolved grief.
If you have nowhere to stay
You can make a homeless application to a local council if you are homeless and pregnant. The Council is legally responsible to assess your situations, provide a temporary home or a permanent accommodation depending upon your case.
If you are likely to lose your accommodation in next two months, you have the right to seek help from local council.
What can we do to help pregnant homeless women?
Life can be a series of traumatic events when you are living on the streets and expecting a child. Mostly, women who end up being homeless were fleeing from some abusive partners, coping with an unplanned pregnancy, or escaping sexual abuse from a family member. Rarely, do women become homeless because of substance addiction.
As the challenges are unique, there are diverse ways we can help homeless women;
- Donate maternity clothes, prenatal vitamins, and other medicines
If you have access to pregnancy medications or know someone who has spare maternity clothes, new born clothes, and necessities, offer them to the homeless women who is experiencing this wonderful thing at an awful time.
- Volunteer time, money or resources to organizations working for pregnant homeless women
There are government agencies, Churches, NGO’s, and private organizations which closely monitor women who could be pregnant and in need of help. By volunteering through your time, money, or other resources, you can help them.
- Sponsor their unborn children for education
A lack of stable income is one of the most challenging aspects of homelessness as a single parent. If you can sponsor their children’s education, one generation would escape the vicious cycle of homelessness
- Acknowledge and Engage
Homelessness can be extremely isolating and depressing for women. We should acknowledge women on the streets, share a smile, listen to their stories, and start a conversation.
- Help them find a place to live
Most of the young mothers are unaware of their rights as a citizen. The Council is legally responsible to assess the situations in which a woman became homeless and provide a temporary home or a permanent accommodation.
Homeless Pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to multiple forms of victimization. They suffer before, during and after delivering the child in multiple settings at the hands of multiple perpetrators. The shelters for women are unsafe for both expecting mothers and newborns and they have reported extreme physical and mental violence inside the safe homes.