The latest edition of the Council to Homeless Persons Parity magazine gives a voice to the often-invisible group of people experiencing homelessness during pregnancy. Uniting Vic.Tas was honoured to host the launch of this edition last week, coinciding with the start of Homelessness Week.
We were grateful for the opportunity to hear from many speakers throughout the event, who shared their personal connection or lived experience with the topic of pregnancy and homelessness.
Victorian Minister for Women, Hon. Natalie Hutchins, formally launched the July edition by graciously sharing her own story of growing up in social housing.
Minister Hutchins described herself as “the daughter of a young woman of 17 who found herself pregnant”, recounting experiences of living in high-rise public housing during early childhood, and the continuation of housing stress after her family had moved into private rental accommodation.
“By the time I turned 18 we had moved house 20 times”
“I know what it is like to have to pack up a house at five minutes to midnight because we were behind in the rent, or they gave us very short notice.”
Uniting’s General Manager Housing and Property, Kristie Looney, welcomed event attendees including fellow article contributors, members of the Pregnancy and Homelessness Network, people with lived experience of pregnancy and homelessness, and partners from across the sector such as Council to Homeless Persons, Launch Housing and Housing First.
Ms Looney recounted a particular story involving a young woman who fell pregnant in high school.
“She was very young, her son was born with a disability, and she was told he wouldn’t walk or talk,” Ms Looney said.
“She was single and applying for rental properties and couldn’t get a look in, so she found herself homeless.
“Then, one day her life changed. She was given the opportunity to rent a property through a social housing provider. Rent was affordable, the home was long term and it meant she could really focus on the important things in life.
“Things like finishing Year 12, getting a Uni degree and helping her son in therapy so he could have best chance in life. She was able to get a part-time job, so her income changed, and she was able to build confidence.
“This story is a true story – it’s my story. It’s why I’m here today and why I work in this sector and it’s what motivates me every day.”
Kristie also contributed an opinion article for this edition.
Rose McCrohan, Manager Curran Place Mother and Baby Residential Withdrawal Service contributed the second Uniting-authored article in this edition. In collaboration with Sally Coutts and Kerri Felemonow from The Women’s Hospital, the article explores the work that goes into supporting pregnant women and new mums experiencing AOD-related harm and homelessness.
Among other service providers and practitioners within the sector, Rose joined a panel discussion that focused on the extent, nature and impact of homelessness on pregnancy outcomes for mother and infant. Panel members were asked to reflect on the outcomes they have witnessed for people accessing their services, Rose concluded the session with an acknowledgement of positivity within the sector.
“We see just how strong women are, and the human spirit… you keep judging that these young women will not cope and then you see magic within them.”
You can read Rose’s article ‘An Inevitable Collaboration? Working Together to Support Pregnant Women Experiencing Homelessness and Alcohol and Other Drug Related Harm’ here and Kristie Looney’s opinion article here.