Between trying to find the perfect name and attending monthly check-ups, pregnant women have a large to-do list before the arrival of their baby.
However, this to-do list is not the same for everyone.
According to Karen Kurtz, a grant writer for Community Bridges, when women are pregnant and homeless, their main priority is figuring how to simply survive.
“When you’re homeless everything is intensified,” Kurtz said. “So, you can just imagine if you’re homeless and pregnant…you’re more vulnerable because you don’t have a source of food, you don’t have medical care, and you don’t have a stable environment where you can feel safe.”
Phoenix has an increasing unsheltered homeless population, and although there are several organizations and shelters trying to help, there are not enough that have the necessary resources or space for one of the most invisible subgroups of the population—pregnant women.
“At a homeless shelter, typically, you can come at 10 at night and you have to be out at seven o’clock the next morning and so on,” Frank S. Hale, Chief Development Officer for Maggie’s Place, said.
According to Hale, this model does not work for homeless pregnant women or women who have just given birth because they need to be on bed rest, the baby requires various resources such as diapers, and the women do not have the accessibility to find jobs because they need someone to watch over their child. They are stuck in an endless cycle they cannot get out of.
Members of the community blame a series of factors that have led to this national problem.
“Women are more relational by nature,” Kurtz said. “They are going to pair up for safety. So, they may end up in a relationship with somebody that they might not want to really be in a relationship with, but they need safety while they are out on the streets. That is a common pattern for homeless women in general.”
“Society,” Hale said. “We have a lot of broken families. We have an educational system that may not be delivering to the needs of today. We have the ease of drugs and alcohol, and a lot of other things that is easy for individuals to get involved in.”
“Reasons as to why women experience homelessness can vary,” Shantae Smith, Human Services Planner for Maricopa Association Governments, said. “We as a community honor and recognize that not every story is the same, and not every solution will fit the need.”
“Homelessness can be brought on by lack of income, lack of stability, lack of affordable housing, etc. Experiencing domestic violence can certainly be a primary cause in homelessness. More than 2300 households are in need of housing every year due to domestic violence,” Smith said
The rising prices of the housing market in Phoenix is one of the main reasons credited to homelessness in the Valley.
According to the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, to rent a 2-bedroom apartment in Arizona the Fair Market Rent (FMR) is $1,015. To be able to afford this level of rent and not pay more than 30% of income for housing, a household must earn $3,383 monthly or $40, 597 annually.
Metro Phoenix is only second to Flagstaff under the label “The Most Expensive Areas” in the report. The housing wage that is necessary to afford a 2-bedroom apartment in Phoenix is $20.63 per hour.
Another problem related to homelessness, specifically homeless women, is domestic abuse.
According to the 2019 Point-in-Time (PIT) Count Report, there were 6,614 people experiencing homelessness in Maricopa County as of January 21, 2019 and of those there were 805 who were victims of domestic violence.
Substance abuse, however, is the category with the highest population according to the PIT report. Out of the 6,614 people, 1,116 were suffering problems with substance abuse.
Kurtz is knowledgeable of the topic because she is an adoptive parent to a child who was exposed to drugs in utero.
“My daughter was substance-exposed so she has the same types of things that any substance-exposed child may have,” Kurtz said. “She has ADHD, Oppositional Defiance Disorder, and sensory processing issues. She is a school-age child dealing with all that.”