By Lisa Winter, Director of Community & Residential Development
April 28th, 2020
Fontebella Maternity Home provides holistic care for women experiencing homelessness and who are facing an unplanned pregnancy. Pregnancy and parenting are common among young people facing homelessness, more so than among their stably housed peers.
About 44% of young women ages 18-25, who face homelessness report being a parent or pregnant. Each year, hundreds of thousands of children—up to 1.1 million in the U.S. in 2017—2020 live with a young mom who is homeless. Studies also show that children raised in an environment of homelessness are 72% more likely to repeat the pattern of poverty and homelessness in their own lives.
It is common for women facing homelessness to be sexually active, including those who practice survival sex or are trafficked for sex, and they are at higher risk of pregnancy. Knowing they have no safe, stable place to care for and raise their children compounds their already traumatic test of daily survival. Yet, pregnant women experiencing homelessness find there are few options for safe shelter and services for them. Currently, Fontebella is the only Maternity Home in the St. Clair County region for a radius of 60 miles. Homeless pregnant women need everything—food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and safety, plus education, vocational training, and life skills to achieve a secure future for themselves and their children.
Care is critical. Without it, their children are at higher risk for a range of issues, from developmental delays, severe health issues, early-onset substance abuse, and repeated bouts of homelessness as they grow older. The young parents themselves go untreated for the trauma and other issues that drove them to and have kept them homeless and the cycle continues. During pregnancy, we have a window of opportunity in which many women see themselves wanting new beginnings and new ways to live their lives. We want to capture this window of time and do all that we can to give women the chance to change their lives.
Pregnant women who come to Fontebella Maternity Home for safety, shelter, and for services have traveled a hard road, and their decision to seek safe shelter and care is one they hope will be life-changing. About 29% of these young parents have a history of foster care, 37% have been involved in the justice system, 36% have been impacted by domestic violence, and 28% have a history of mental health challenges.
When we welcome a mom into our house, we provide a host of custom programming and services that both respond to their immediate needs and support them. At the same time, they work on acquiring skills and knowledge that will allow them to build a stable life for themselves and their children. More than half our young moms and their children emerge from Fontebella to independent and stable living situations when we can do a planned discharge. We would like to see that figure rise to more than 75% as we expand what we can offer this very vulnerable population. We hope that as we grow, we are able to help more and more women become successful moms!